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Animals

All Hail Walker, My Ride-Or-Die For Fat Bear Week

Walker fishing in a river
The colossal ass of Walker in 2020. He's only gotten larger.
Photo: Katmai National Park

My esteemed coworkers often have conversations that range beyond the purview of my many demented pastimes, and so I usually take that time to do quite literally anything else. That method has never really failed me, as the most interesting conversations end up making it onto the site as blogs anyway, saving me a whole lot of scroll-back. However, this morning I discovered that I had somehow completely missed Defector’s obsession with Fat Bear Week.

Sure, I had seen the phrase, and Lauren had plugged it last week in the Defector newsletter, but I just chalked it up to our site’s adoration of bears—Bear Friday can be any day of the week, spiritually—and moved on. That was a mistake.

This morning, Barry sent over a link with the announcement of this year’s Fat Bear Week contestants, and let me tell you, I would ride into battle for Walker like the guitar guy from Fury Road.

Credit: Katmai National Park

According to the website of Alaska’s Katmai National Park, Walker—whose official handle is “151”—is a 14-year-old brown bear who has been in the area since 2009. That kind of longevity has turned Walker into a bit of an asshole, and I love him:

Walker remained a tolerant bear during his young adult years. He allowed other bears to approach him and sought sparring partners for prolonged play fights. However, his priorities have changed as he matured into a fully grown adult. Walker now ranks among the river’s largest bears and he’s become less tolerant of other bears, including some of his former playmates. With his increased body size and a more assertive disposition, Walker is a more dominant bear compared to his younger days.

That’s my kind of bear, as I too have become less tolerant of other people as I’ve aged. Unlike me, though, Walker has put in the work to assert his dominance; though he weighed a whopping 1,000 pounds for last year’s Fat Bear Week, park rangers assert that he is even larger this year.

It doesn’t appear to be an easy path to the championship for Walker, though, as there are some other good and large lads in his side of the bracket. His first-round opponent, Popeye, is an injury risk, having come into Brooks River with a limp in both 2004 and 2017. Poor guy, but my boy should take the W there.

The quarterfinals are where it gets tough. Just look at this damn Chunk:

Credit: Katmai National Park

Though a lifelong Walker diehard for at least the last two hours, I must admit that Chunk is formidable. Even with Walker’s gains, he might have a hard time catching up to the 1,200-pound mark set by Chunk last year. My only hope is that the voters know a good underdog story when they see it, and that they notice Walker’s transformation from a scrawny summer bear into the world-conquering autumnal force that he is. Chunk appears to have been born fat; he didn’t have to work for it.

If Walker moves on, my second-favorite bear in this whole thing may be there waiting for him in the semifinal. I’m sorry, but 132’s still-unnamed cub should not be allowed to be this cute:

Credit: Katmai National Park

It’s unfair to Walker that he might have to trounce this adorable loaf of a baby bear, because I can’t deny that 132’s cub is a five-star prospect in the making. The 9-month-old was the inaugural champion of the Fat Bear Junior contest held last week, and his reward is to belly flop directly into the big-boy league.

If there’s one bit of good news for us Walkheads—the official title for his supporters’ group—it’s that he dodged the Otis side of the bracket.

Credit: Katmai National Park

Otis is the LeBron James of Fat Bear Week. The three-time champion (2014, 2016, 2017) has the popular support and is in his crafty veteran era. He lets the game come to him, fishing calmly and without expending too much energy in order to go from a scrawny wimp of a bear that he was in July into the titanic force of nature he has become. I appreciate him, but I hope Walker’s massive circumference and adorable little ears gets a chance to crush him into democratic dust.

Fat Bear Week voting starts on Wednesday, Sept. 29, and lasts through Fat Bear Tuesday and the crowning of a new champion on Oct. 5. I look forward to seeing Walker take his rightful place upon the throne.