After eating lots of tasty fish in preparation for the northern hemisphere’s winter, Brown bear 747 has been crowned the winner of the annual Fat Bear Week.
The initiative, run by the US National Parks Service and multimedia organisation explore, gives the public a chance to vote for the biggest brown bear in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
Over one week, people cast their votes for eight nominated bears that have been gorging on river salmon in the lead up to their hibernation.
After a summer of catching and eating fish – usually salmon – in the Brooks River, the bears reach peak size in early to mid-October.
Shortly, they’ll go into a five-to-eight-month slumber, emerging after the coldest part of the Alaskan winter.
The initiative shines a light on the behaviours and survival methods of the species which resides across northern hemisphere continents towards the Arctic Circle.
Although brown bears are now extinct in much of central and southern Europe, some still persist in Romania and the Balkan states, and they remain across Russia, Alaska, Canada, the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau.
It is also an important indicator species for other wildlife due to their wide habitat range, and play important ecological roles as seed dispersers, and lower-level species managers through predation.
Get stuffed! Cheating claims in lead up to Fat Bear final
Prior to the grand final between 747 and brown bear 901, a shocking case of voting fraud left organisers decidedly grizzly.
A spam attack of votes during the semi-finals threatened to derail 747’s quest for a second Fat Bear crown.
Fortunately, organisers were hot onto the bogus bruin ballots.
“Like bears stuff their face with fish, your ballot box, too, has been stuffed,” Katmai organisers said on Monday.
“It appears someone has decided to spam the Fat Bear Week poll, but fortunately it is easy for us to tell which votes are fraudulent. We have discarded the fake votes.”
Publicly voted animal awareness competitions are notoriously prone to phony voting.
The Guardian Australia Bird of the Year competition infamously saw a case of dodgy democracy in 2019 when a case of automated voting was detected by the avian electoral commission.
Cosmos’ own Australian Mammal of the Year competition was this year hit by a bout of egregious electioneering when hundreds of spam votes were cast for some animals vying for the crown.
Fortunately, as with Fat Bear Week, spotting and omitting a bad ballot is a straightforward task of, usually, spotting unusual voting patterns.
747 does it again
Brown bear 747 – aptly named after a jumbo jet – claimed victory with 68,105 votes to rival 901’s 56,875.
It was 747’s second premiership, having previously claimed the title in 2020. ‘480 Otis’ holds the record of four titles – exactly half the number of Fat Bear Weeks held.
“Though he may be blissfully unaware of his two titles, the gains are real,” say the Fat Bear Week organisers.
“In the bear world, fat is fit and these chunky contenders have been working tirelessly to pack on the pounds necessary for survival.”
A record 1.027 million votes were cast in the 2022 edition of the event.
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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