It was a beary happy day for this contest winner.
“Fat” and “fabulous” brown bear 425, or Holly earned the title of 2019 Fat Bear Week Champion, a competition held by Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
Tuesday night, Holly won the title against 775 “Lefty.”
This was the fifth year the March Madness-style competition was held. Beginning on Oct. 2, users voted on before-and-after pictures of which bear they thought was the fattest, with the winner proceeding to the next round.
“She is fat. She is fabulous. She is 435 Holly,” Katmai National Park and Preserve announced. “All hail Holly whose healthy heft will help her hibernate until the spring. Long live the Queen of Corpulence!”
In the summer and fall, Alaskan brown bears can eat between 80 and 90 pounds of food a day — and they can gain 3 to 6 pounds per day as well, according to the National Park Service. The bears pack on the pounds before they head into hibernation between mid-October and early December.
A 3-D scan of Lefty released Wednesday showed Holly’s competitor estimated to weigh 1,408 pounds — with a volume “the size of a side by side refrigerator.”
Katmai Conservancy Media Ranger Naomi Boak commented that Holly was not scanned because “she never got out of the water long enough.”
Boak and Katmai Conservancy media ranger Brooklyn White hope the competition — which gained a record-breaking total of more than 187,000 votes this year — brings awareness to the importance of conserving the Brooks River where bears forage for food, they told NPR.
“Not all bears have this same kind of access to these salmon resources,” White told NPR, “and to an ecosystem that has such clean water.”
Boak told NPR the bears stayed around small creeks and streams, as Alaska had a dry summer and salmon were “delayed” in reaching Brooks. With the delay, bears will keep eating in the weeks to come, possibly into mid-November as they head into hibernation.
Hibernation can last for five to eight months, and brown bears typically emerge from their dens in April or May, according to the NPS.