After online cheating scandal, Fat Bear Week has its 2022 winner
There’s a new champion brown bear in Alaska’s Katmai National Park & Preserve.
After an online cheating scandal disrupted the semifinals, a winner was announced Tuesday night in the park’s annual Fat Bear Week contest.
Bear 747 collected the most votes, triumphing over his worthy challenger 901.
The Twitter announcement hit at 9 p.m. ET and excitedly announced: “THIS 747 IS CLEARED FOR LANDING. Introducing your 2022 Fat Bear Week champion.”
This is not 747’s first big win. He also took the title in 2020.
Few bears ever reach 747’s girth, according to his online profile on Explore.org, the organization that runs the contest.
It says he’s one of the biggest brown bears on Earth, possibly weighing as much as 1,400 pounds (635 kg). He’s been working hard at fattening up: he fished at the park’s Brooks Falls nearly every day from late June to mid-September.
Some bears might resort to aggression to exert dominance. Not so much for this big bear. “747 typically keeps his status by sheer size alone,” his profile says.
“He shows that skill and size influence success in the bear world.”
Runner-up Bear 901 was first identified as a 2.5-year-old in 2018. According to her online profile, “she fishes throughout Brooks River and sometimes is keen to defend her fishing spots from other bears. As a young adult in 2022, she continued to refine her fishing and social skills.
“This is a lifelong process for brown bears, but it is particularly important for young adult females. Bear 901 may soon experience a new challenge: raising cubs.”
It’s crucial for pregnant female bears to pack on ample body fat to support survival in hibernation and to give birth to healthy cubs.
This all might have been a different story if officials hadn’t detected the vote tampering on Sunday.
“A Fat Bear Week scandal for the ages. Someone stuffed the ballot box!,” Explore.org said on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Officials got suspicious when 747’s semi-final opponent, 435 Holly, roared back from trailing by 6,000 votes in just a couple of hours, Explore.org’s Candice Rusch told CNN Travel via email.
“While not unheard of, it is very uncommon for a bear to come back late in the day like that. We ended up finding just over 9,000 spam votes,” Rusch said.
There were some spam votes for 747 as well, “maybe to throw us off?”
Explore.org added a captcha feature to the poll, Rusch said.
The fake votes were discarded, and previous days’ votes were reviewed. In the end, 747 prevailed over 435 Holly.
Celebrating the bears
The annual contest is “a way to celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai’s brown bears,” Katmai said last week on its website.
Each year, brown bears congregate on the salmon-packed Brooks River before hibernating for the winter. The live cam from the river is a popular online feature.
All 12 heavyweights in the 2022 contest had been in training for the big event since emerging from hibernation, foraging on all the salmon and other food nature provides at this park in coastal southwest Alaska.
Explore.org provided colorful bios and informative before/after photos of the adorable (but nevertheless formidable) brown bear contestants on its website.
Princess Cruises leads the charge with six MedallionClass ships, featuring the Discovery Princess, the line’s newest ship and the youngest sailing in Alaska. Altogether Princess offers 12 cruise itineraries, 25 cruise-tour options and a choice of four embarkation points including Seattle, Vancouver, Whittier and San Francisco.
Norwegian Cruise Line sends five ships to Alaska for the first time ever: The Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Spirit sail five- to 11-day cruises departing Seattle, Seward and Vancouver. Longer repositioning cruises to begin and end the season also are scheduled, such as 16-day voyages between Alaska and Hawaii or Japan.
Royal Caribbean International fields its first four-ship Alaska deployment. Two Quantum-class ships — the Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas — sail seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle. Two Radiance-class ships — the Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas — sail one-way, seven-day Gulf of Alaska cruises between Seward and Vancouver.
Carnival Cruise Line returns with three ships sailing the Inside Passage. The Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor depart on six- to eight-day cruises from Seattle, while the Carnival Miracle sails on 10-day cruises from San Francisco.
Windstar Cruises introduces the newly transformed, all-suite Star Breeze on itineraries as short as seven days. The Star Breeze features a whole new look since its lengthening with new suites and expanded restaurant facilities, plus an enlarged pool and spa.
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The Gustavus Inn at Glacier Bay reopens under new Native ownership by the Hoonah Indian Association and will once again serve as a base for visitors to experience Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Glacier Bay Lodge reopens in May, offering the only overnight lodging accommodations within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Activities include a day-boat tour of the park’s tidewater glaciers or a visit to the Huna Tribal House, where Huna Tlingit guides share their ancestral connection to the land.
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The Iditarod Sled Dog Race takes off for the 50th time on March 5 in Anchorage on its traditional route after an abbreviated course last year. The winner will cross the finish line some two weeks later in Nome — a historic journey of about 1,000 miles.
Holland America Line commemorates 75 years of bringing travelers to Alaska — longer than any other cruise line — with special programming aboard six ships. Three-, four- or seven-day cruises can be combined with land options as far afield as the Canadian Yukon for a total of 16 different Land+Sea Journeys.
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