By Paige Duane
After a tense week of voting, Fat Bear Week 2022 has finally come to a conclusion. This year’s champion is 1,400-pound, returning champ, Bear 747, affectionately nicknamed “Bear Force One”.
For those unfamiliar with the contest, Fat Bear Week is an annual week-long competition in which people vote online for their favorite “fat bear”. According to Katmai National Park and Reserve, the organization running this event, Fat Bear Week is a “way to celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of…brown bears”. It pits bears against one another in March Madness like brackets and gradually eliminates bears until just one remains. Fans base their votes on “a bear’s relative fatness, its personality…or the obstacles it overcame to get so fat that season”. The last bear standing is crowned the victor.
A tradition honoring the impressive size of brown bears seems harmless enough, however this year a cheating scandal nearly besmirched the integrity of the contest. On Monday October 9, officials announced that illegal votes had been submitted in the semifinals. A number of falsified spam votes were entered for finalist Bear 435, Holly. The team in charge of running the competition then had to filter through the spam votes to discern who the true champion was. Steps were taken to ensure that “widespread foul play” will not occur in future votes. Ultimately it was decided that Bear 747 was the winner of the contest, beating Bear 435 by over 11,000 votes.
Despite the drama that took place, Fat Bear Week 2022 has been deemed a roaring success by fans and officials alike. Creator of the contest Mike Fitz reported that he was grateful to “to give more people the opportunity to learn about Katmai’s brown bears”. The event certainly has sparked an interest within the public as the Katmai National Park and Reserve has been flooded with donations largely in part to Fat Bear Week.