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Fat Bear Week emerges from scandal to crown a new champion

Bear 435 Holly is photographed at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
E. Johnston
/
NPS
Bear 435 Holly is photographed at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Fat Bear Week was rocked by scandal over the weekend after organizers in Alaska uncovered voting irregularities that were meant to skew the results of a pivotal semifinal. A new champion is poised to be crowned on Tuesday, the competition's final day.

But first, the cheating drama: "FAT BEAR WEEK SCANDAL" Katmai National Park announced via Twitter, showing itself to be a model of democratic transparency.

The park says its virtual ballot box was stuffed in Sunday's contest between the mammoth 747 and the blond-eared Holly — but poll workers seem to have caught the fake votes in timely fashion, lending legitimacy to 747's victory.

In Tuesday's final round, 747 has been cleared to face off against 901 — a young upstart female whom the park describes as "both exploratory and occasionally mischievous."

Voting runs from noon to 9 p.m. ET.

In 747's tainted contest with Holly, an unidentified outside entity attempted to influence the outcome with spam votes, "but fortunately it is easy for us to tell which votes are fraudulent," and the bogus votes were discarded, the park said. Holly, who is blissfully unaware of this or any other election, did not press for an independent recount.

In their matchup, 747's tally of 37,940 votes easily outpaced Holly's 30,430 — the latest reminder that regardless of the size of a candidate's base, it all comes down to voter turnout. Just two days earlier, Holly had romped to victory with 82,257 votes — the most of any bear that day, including 747.

480 Otis is seen wading in the water at Katmai National Park.
L. Law
/
NPS
480 Otis is seen wading in the water at Katmai National Park.

After uncovering the spam attack, due diligence required polling organizers to review other matches for possible signs of tampering, but they concluded that the other outcomes were legitimate. That finding was little solace to fans of perennial contenders such as Otis and Chunk, who were ousted midway through this year's contest.

But as the park reminds us, all the bears in Fat Bear Week are poised for a successful off-season after gorging themselves on salmon and building up their bodies' fat reserves.

"Otis may be out of the competition, but he's looking really good for hibernation this winter!" the park consoled the Otis faithful.

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