Fat Bear Week vote spammed by fake email addresses

Bear eating fish in alaska

Fat Bear Week was almost rigged.

The National Park Service says someone spammed the popular vote that lets people pick the fattest bear of the year at Brooks River in Katami National Park in Alaska. The website explore.org says the March Madness-style tournament is meant to celebrate the success of bears as they prepare for their winter hibernation.

The bears have numerical designations, but some have names to go with them.

Someone apparently spiked the vote in one of the semi-final rounds on Sunday.

“FAT BEAR WEEK SCANDAL,” Katami National Park tweeted Sunday. “Like bears stuff their face with fish, our ballot box, too, has been stuffed.”

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“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,” the park continued. “We have discarded the fake votes and today’s official totals are:
  • 747: 37,940
  • 435: 30,430
Rolling Stone spoke with a National Park Service official who confirmed the spam attack was made to give 435 — also known as Holly — the win.

“747 was winning was leading in votes for the whole day and by quite a substantial amount,” Amber Kraft, Interpretation and Education Program Manager for the NPS, told Rolling Stone. “When there were just a few hours of voting left we noticed that 435 Holly received over 9,000 votes in a very short period of time.”

Explore.org reportedly discovered that the tidal wave of votes came from fake email addresses coming from fake IP addresses. Filtering those out threw out some 9,000 votes for 435.

NPS said it’s now adding captcha to its system to prevent future fraudulent vote spikes.

747 went on to win the final over 901 on Tuesday by a vote of 68,105 to 56,876.

You can watch the Brooks River bears doing bear things on this livestream from explore.org.

Explore.org describes 747 as “a very large adult male with a blocky muzzle and a floppy right ear. In early summer, his reddish-brown fur sheds in a patchy manner. Like many adult males, he often has scars and wounds on his face and neck. In late summer and fall, he is typically very fat with a low-hanging belly and uniformly dark brown fur.”

It’s also not lost on them that 747 shares its name with the famed Boeing jet.


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