Big fat fraud – bear-faced cheating in Alaskan wildlife poll

Katmai National Park and Preserve have announced that Bear 747 is the winner of its annual Fat Bear Week contest. It is the bear’s second win. Tipping the scales at an estimated 635 kilograms, Bear 747 won 68,105 votes, beating first-time contender Bear 901 with 56,876 votes.

Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating the park’s bears’ success in preparation for hibernation. The event began as Fat Bear Tuesday in 2014 and grew into the Bear Week tournament in 2015. The light-hearted competition celebrates Katmai’s brown bears as they pack on the pounds in preparation for their winter hibernation.

Katmai park rangers select 12 bears and provide two photos of the animals, one taken in mid-July and the other taken in early September. The contest started on October 5, with grizzly fans voting for their favourite of the park’s hibernation-preparing residents. Bears compete in a series of head-to-head knock-out rounds until a winner emerges.

Big fat fraud - bear-faced cheating in Alaskan wildlife poll | News by ThaigerSome of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park. As winter comes, fattening up is a matter of life and death for the bears. To prepare for winter, each bear consumes around 500lbs of salmon from Brooks River during the summer. They rely on stored fat for energy and can lose up to a third of their body fat during the winter. The more weight they put on, the more likely they are to survive the cold dark months ahead.

Big fat fraud - bear-faced cheating in Alaskan wildlife poll | News by Thaiger
Jumbo bear 747 is justly victorious.

But Bear 747, an exceptionally large female who was crowned winner of Fat Bear Week in 2020, nearly didn’t make it to the final because of an unprecedented case of voter fraud in the semi-finals that was quickly corrected by officials.

Also known as Holly, 901 initially appeared to defeat Bear 747 in the semi-final, but an investigation found that Holly was propelled to victory when she received 9,000 votes in a short space of time.

“It appears someone has decided to spam the Fat Bear Week poll, but fortunately it is easy for us to tell which votes are fraudulent,” tweeted Katmai National Park on Sunday.

Viewers from around the world – presumably those impervious to the preponderance of particularly punishing puns and adipose alliterations adhering and to Katmai’s competition coverage (“bulky bruins,” “preponderance of pudge,” “stuffing the ballot box”) – tune in to the park’s livestream to watch the hungry bears feast on fresh sushi.

The park is accessible primarily by light aircraft, so voting takes place mainly among armchair fat bear fans via the Alaska park’s Flickr page, who cast their votes at each day.

“Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success and survival. It is a way to celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai’s brown bears,” the park said.


Big fat fraud - bear-faced cheating in Alaskan wildlife poll | News by Thaiger




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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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