Bear 747 Overcomes Scandal to Win Fat Bear Week 

It’s the second title in three years for the 1,400-pound behemoth dubbed “Bear Force One”

Bear 747, the 2022 Fat Bear Week champion, in all his gargantuan glory.  Photo courtesy of L. Law

On Tuesday, the internet crowned bear 747, a.k.a. “Bear Force One,” the winner of Fat Bear Week 2022. The estimated 1,400-pound giant is over 20 years old, according to Mashable’s Mark Kaufman, and he previously captured the title in 2020. This year, he defeated bear 901, a six-year-old female, in the final round by more than 10,000 votes, per Anna Betts of Buzzfeed News.

The annual online competition is a single-elimination bracket of brown bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, and winners are decided by the highest number of votes. The park hosts more than 2,200 bears, according to Buzzfeed News, but only a lucky twelve are selected to vie for the title each year.

The bears fatten up by eating salmon along the Brooks River in preparation for the winter’s hibernation, write CNN’s Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown. It’s important they gain weight during the summer and fall, since they survive on their fat stores for six months through the winter. Adult male bears typically weigh between 700 and 900 pounds in mid-summer and often weigh over 1,200 pounds by the late summer and fall, according to Explore.org, which hosts the competition.

Below is His Majesty, 747, in June, before packing on his necessary pre-hibernation pounds.

A photo taken on June 25 shows a slimmer 747 at the beginning of the summer.  Photo courtesy of C. Rohdenburg

But Fat Bear Week isn’t just about which bear weighs the most—voters also consider the change in a bear’s size, its personality and the obstacles it overcame on its path to beefiness, writes the Washington Post’s Natalie B. Compton. In its open-ended guidance, the voting website instructs participants to vote for “the bear you believe best exemplifies fatness.”

Bear 901 had completed her bulk phase by the time this photo was taken on September 18.  Photo courtesy of L. Law

Bear 901 ultimately fell to 747 in the finals, the younger of the two behemoths still had a strong performance in her first-ever competition. She easily defeated defending champion and four-time winner 480 Otis by more than 23,000 votes in an earlier round, per the Post. “Expect big things in the future!” Katmai National Park said of 901 in a tweet.

A much less bulky 901 in July, still working on bulking up for hibernation.

Though Holly initially appeared to be the winner, the park reported that she received a high number of suspicious votes late in the voting period, per NPR’s Bill Chappell. “While not unheard of, it is very uncommon for a bear to come back late in the day like that,” Explore.org’s Candice Rush tells NPR.

Even though the competition has low stakes, people still get heavily invested in the outcome. The park revealed on Sunday via Twitter that there was a case of voter fraud during the semi-final matchup between 747 and another bear, Holly.

Smithsonian Explore.Org

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