Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Even Fat Bear Week is not immune to this year's rash of tournament cheating scandals

The annual celebration of tubby Alaskan bears was almost compromised by ballot stuffers

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
A bear, pictured reflecting on this whole sad affair.
A bear, pictured reflecting on this whole sad affair.
Photo: Jean Christophe Verhaegen (Getty Images)

What have we come to? In the past month alone, cheating scandals have rocked the worlds of competitive fishing, chess, and Irish dancing. Despite all of this we continued to believe that some tournaments were too sacred to be fouled by this kind of terrible behavior. We believed that there were some lines that would never be crossed—that, while chess and fishing and dancing may be plagued by scandal, there was one competition that we all understood must maintain total integrity.

Alas, Fat Bear Week, too, has now been forced to acknowledge an attempted cheating scandal.


CNN’s Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown report that last night’s announcement of 2022's Fat Bear Week winner arrived after organizer Explore.org thwarted a nefarious attempt to destroy the last scraps of hope we’re able to maintain in the democratic process. While the title of Katmai National Park’s most magnificent fat bear of the year has now rightfully been given to Bear 747, the champ nearly lost due to “an online cheating scandal” during the semi-final round.


As Explore.org’s Candice Rusch explained to CNN, “officials got suspicious” on Sunday “when 747's semi-final opponent, 435 Holly, roared back from trailing by 6,000 votes in just a couple of hours.” Rusch says that “it is very uncommon for a bear to come back late in the day like that,” and, after investigating, Explore.org “ended up finding just over 9,000 spam votes.”

Fortunately—and while we are now deeply in debt after betting big on Otis—Bear 747 won the title he deserved, earning the honor for a second time following his success in 2020. As Explore.org writes, 747 is “one of the largest brown bears on Earth, perhaps weighing as much as 1,400 pounds (636 kg).” It’s only fair, in light of this fact, that he wins.

We previously (and with heavy hearts) covered prior animal popularity contest cheating scandals when New Zealand’s 2020 Bird Of The Year title was nearly stolen from the humble kākāpō (or “moss chicken”). While it will take sociologists and historians decades to present satisfying theories for why so many people would want to tamper with these natural elections, in the meantime, Explore.org has “added a captcha feature to the poll” in order to safeguard future Fat Bear Week votes.

Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com