Scandal Surfaces in Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week Voting

by Alex Falls
N8tureGrl / Getty

The internet-famous bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve grow impressively fat over the summer ahead of their winter hibernation. The park’s resident bears have become so popular they’re on the live-streamed on wildlife webcams

Every year, the park tasks the bears’ viewers with voting on their favorite “fat bear” of the year.

The contest highlights the amazing transformation bears must make after they emerge from hibernation, emaciated and hungry. From the middle of summer to the fall, an average male adult can go from weighing 600-900 pounds to well over 1,000 pounds, according to the Katmai website.

Viewers got to vote between 12 brown bears placed into a bracket. They decide who should advance from each matchup. Voting ran from October 5 through October 11. But when it came time to tally up the votes, Katmai National Park discovered an attempt to throw the election with spam votes.

Contestants are tracked by their numbers. But veteran animals are known by names like the large male Chunk, or the blond-eared female Holly. Then there’s 747 — who doesn’t need a nickname because his number and size both echo the famous jumbo jet.

The contest came down to a race between 747 and the equally impressive 435. After the park discarded the fake votes, they were able to provide an updated tally.

Fat Bear Week Raises Awareness of Bear Behaviors

While the competition favors girth, bears often become sentimental favorites, thanks to personal stories experts have gleaned from years of observation.

Holly, aka 435, has guided several cubs on difficult paths to becoming successful adults. Including 503, whom she adopted after he was left alone as a yearling cub.

Some of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Brown bears get fat to survive and Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation. 

The contest highlights the bears’ backstories. As such, they are a great way for the park to educate the public about the wide range of bear behaviors. From their fishing and survival strategies to how they interact with other animals