October 21, 2022
Election fraud. This phrase is commonly associated with the 2020 election, but while that claim is still unproven, this example of election fraud is very real. This Katmai National Park tradition originated in 2014, where one Tuesday, a 24-hour-long vote was held to determine the fattest bear before hibernation. By the next year, it had become a week-long event, and now it is known as Fat Bear Week, where the march madness style voting yields a winner at the end of the week.
The scandal of 2022, was the election fraud that took place during the voting between two competitors, Bear 747, otherwise known as Colbert due to its misshapen ear, and Bear 435, also called Holly. Colbert had been leading in the votes, when suddenly, a large number of votes for Holly, helped the bear surpass Colbert.
Holly lovers hoped that some influencer had somehow rallied votes for Holly, leading to a legitimate win, but unfortunately that was not the case. Some Holly fanatic had used suspicious email addresses to vote almost 9,000 times for Bear 435, and try to cheat their way to victory. The agents at the park were surprised that someone would go to such lengths to help a bear win in Fat Bear Week. As Katmai National Park Ranger, Mark Fitz said, “ It doesn't really matter who wins, because more people now recognize the efforts bears go through to gain weight to survive the winter."
Fitz also expressed his disappointment in the whole situation, “It’s disappointing. I mean, Fat Bear Week is based on honesty, right? And it’s supposed to be a fun and good-natured virtual competition. It’s also interesting to me that someone cared so much to try to flip the vote for Holly.”
Bear 747 went on to win the whole competition, beating Bear 901 with around 54% of the votes in 747’s favor. Most people reacted by praising Bear 747, some fondly calling him “bear force one.” However, Holly remains a fan favorite, with some affectionate fans calling her the “queen” of Fat Bear Week.
Overall, despite the controversy, Bear 747, or Colbert, is the rightful winner of Fat Bear Week. This was the first time Katmai National Park had experienced voter fraud, and they plan on taking steps to prevent future fraud, by improving their voting system to prevent spam votes from a single IP address.