'747' named winner of Fat Bear Week for 2nd time following ballot-stuffing attempt

It was easy to tell "which votes are fraudulent," contest organizers said.

October 12, 2022, 3:55 PM

Contest organizers in Alaska have named the winner of the Fat Bear Week contest despite an earnest attempt among voters to flood the online poll with fake ballots.

The national park announced on Sunday that someone attempted to "spam" the poll. However, it was "easy" to spot which votes were fraudulent, the park said.

"Like bears stuff their face with fish, our ballot box, too, has been stuffed," the national park tweeted.

PHOTO: Bear 747, winner of Fat Bear Week 2022.
Bear 747, winner of Fat Bear Week 2022.
Courtesy of L. Law

Contest organizers first became suspicious about the spam voting when the bear named "435 Holly" came back from being down 6,000 votes "in a matter of a couple hours," Candice Rusch, director of new media for explore.org, told ABC News.

"While not unheard of, it is very uncommon for a bear to come back late in the day like that," Rusch wrote over email.

Organizers ended up finding just over 9,000 spam votes, and the spamming seemed to stop after 435 "took a decent lead," Rusch wrote.

After a recount, a massive bear named "747," akin to the jumbo jetliner, was crowned the champion of Fat Bear Week on Tuesday.

PHOTO: Fat bear 480 Otis with a fish, July 23, 2022.
Fat bear 480 Otis with a fish, July 23, 2022.
Courtesy L. Law

It marked 747's second win -- he was also voted the fattest bear of the land in 2020.

"Though he may be blissfully unaware of his two titles, the gains are real," the park tweeted. "In the bear world, fat is fit and these chunky contenders have been working tirelessly to pack on the pounds necessary for survival."

Every year since 2014, the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska highlights its brown bear population by asking the public to judge which bear along the Brooks River is the fattest. There are more than 2,000 bears estimated to inhabit in the park, according to the National Park Service.

During Fat Bear Week, voters are asked to compare before-and-after images of each bear to see which gained the most weight over the summer before it is time to hibernate for the winter.

PHOTO: Bear 747, winner of Fat Bear Week 2022.
Bear 747, winner of Fat Bear Week 2022.
Courtesy of L. Law

The pounds the bears put on during a monthslong gorge on salmon will help them survive about five months of hibernation in the cold Alaskan winter.

The competition, a collaboration among Katmai National Park and Preserve, Explore.org and Katmai Conservancy, eliminates contestants each day in a March Madness-like bracket. The contest draws hundreds of thousands of voters each year.

"The important thing to remember is that despite which bear wins the most votes in the Fat Bear Week competition, they are all winners," Rusch said. "Bears get fat to survive and the health of Katmai’s ecosystem, as demonstrated by the sustained run of salmon, clean water and thriving flora and fauna, enables their survival."

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