Fierce mama Grazer takes 2023’s Fat Bear Week crown

'It was the year of the sow.'
Grazer looking chunky and getting ready for winter on September 14, 2023. The bear is in the river intensely staring for salmon.
Grazer looking chunky and getting ready for winter on September 14, 2023. NPS Photo/F. Jimenez

Bear enthusiasts of the world have spoken—128 Grazer was just crowned the winner of Fat Bear Week 2023. This is Grazer’s first time wearing the crown, and she beat out runner up 32 Chunk in the fierce Fat Bear Tuesday final by over 85,000 votes.

[Related: It’s Fat Bear season again! This is the best feed to keep up with these hairy giants.]

According to the National Park Service, Grazer is a large adult female, boasting a long straight muzzle, light brown summer fur, and blond ears. During late summer and fall, she is often one of the fattest bears to feed on the plentiful salmon in the Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve.

She is also a particularly defensive mother bear who has raised two litters of cubs. Grazer is known for preemptively confronting and attacking much larger bears—even the large and dominant adult males—to keep her cubs safe. One of Katmai’s adult males named 151 Walker even avoids her, even though she did not have any cubs to protect this season. 

An Instagram post from Katmai National Park and Preserve of the Fat Bear Week 2023 bracket, with bear 128 Grazer in the center.

Grazer is the third female bear, or sow, to win the tournament. In 2019, 435 Holly was dubbed fattest bear and 409 Beadnose wore the prestigious crown in 2018. Beadnose is believed to have died in the five years since. 

“The girls did really well this year,” media ranger at Katmai National Park and Preserve Naomi Boak told The Washington Post. “It was the year of the sow.”

Like any competition, this year’s voting was packed with twists and turns. Four-time Fat Bear Week Champion 480 Otis was ousted on Friday October 6. Otis is the oldest and among the park’s most famous bears. This year, he arrived at Brooks River very skinny, but transformed into a thick bear. Otis was beaten by bear 901, a new mom and the 2022 runner up. 

On Saturday October 7, the 2022 winner bear 747 was defeated by Grazer, who went on to beat 901, Holly, and Chunk in the Final Four. 

[Related: How scientists try to weigh some of the fattest bears on Earth.]

First launched by the National Park Service in 2014 as Fat Bear Tuesday, Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament-style bracket competition where the public votes for their favorite chubby bear. Its goal is to celebrate the Brooks River brown bears at Katmai in southern Alaska and its remarkable ecosystem. It was expanded Fat Bear Week in 2015, following the first year’s success. In 2022, over one million votes were cast all around the world. 

At Katmai, bears are drawn to the large number of salmon readily available from late June through September. Salmon have long since been the lifeblood of the area, supporting Katmai’s people, bears and other animals. Fat bears exemplify the richness of this area, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people along with the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet. The daily lives of the Brooks River bears can be followed via eight live-streaming cameras on from June through October. 

The winners, and all the bears, now get six months of restful solitude as winter approaches.