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Well, what about polar bears?

“All these stories about seabirds are very nice, but have you seen any bears?? Having to wait until the seventh of ten episodes of this blog to have an answer to this simple question, isn't that exaggerated?"

Okay, let's start with a paparazzi-style photo for any tabloid, well pixelated:

« Saturday July 22. Day off. Huge number of seals resting on the ice, I count up to 80. Around 3 p.m., we go for a walk in the mountains, towards the lake. During one of the breaks during the climb, Julie spots a white spot near the hut. Is there a board on the hut there? Hmmm… indeed no! It’s a bear inspecting the premises, standing at the kitchen window!! He goes around the hut, goes to see the reserve [photo], before walking away on the snow and ice towards the south bay (on the way back we will observe the big paw prints at the place… where we take snow for water). A little worrying to see it hanging around the hut: we are going to be extra vigilant. And then we imagine what our reaction would have been if we had stayed at the hut: face to face at the kitchen window? unexpected encounter while photographing the group of geese? »

A week later, we unexpectedly discover other bear tracks on the beach, in the sand, among the multiple tracks of polar foxes, barnacle geese, and men:

In short, Nanoq is there, it is its domain. And it's paradoxical: at the same time, we really want to see this emblem of the Arctic, to feel this emotion, and at the same time, the bear represents a potential danger every time we go out, hence our constant vigilance and the fact that we always carry a rifle with us.

Measuring 2 to 3 meters long, and reaching 300-350 kg for females and up to 600 kg for males, the polar bear can in fact, in certain situations, attack humans, even if its normal diet consists mainly of seals, and in particular ringed seals, at a rate of 50 to 75 per year.

And then, comes July 31...

« Monday July 31. With Julie we equip 2 birds with GPS […]. As we are getting ready to pack up to go do the chick monitoring, several consecutive calls from Greg on the talkie: he spotted a mother bear and her two cubs swimming in the south bay (Ursus maritimus is aptly named, it is an excellent swimmer). Three trunks of light driftwood [bottom left in the photo] moving at a good pace towards the hut, around which they circle, for a thorough inspection, before continuing their journey north.»
« The 3 bears climb onto the blocks of ice from the sea, jump between two floes (even if the second young, at one point, slides backwards and finds itself in the water, before going around the obstacle), set out on their back in the snow, roll around, all fours in the air, slide on their belly, too, and regularly the mother turns towards her cubs, one of whom in particular sometimes drags along the way. »

As you see in the photos, the “little ones” are already big! Let's remember that the female gives birth in the middle of the Arctic winter and in full hibernation, at the beginning of January, in a snow den. The newborns, numbering one to three (usually two), are blind and deaf, and weigh only 500-600 grams. Thanks to breast milk rich in fat, they gain weight, reaching around ten kilos when they go out into the fresh air at the end of March/beginning of April. The females then come out of a fasting period of 4 to 5 months. At the end of their first summer, still breastfed, the little ones reach around fifty kilos. They are weaned only at the age of two and a half years.

« In short, a magnificent, long observation from our elevated observatory, in safety. At sea, on land, on the ice (followed for a long time through binoculars), their raw bear life, just disturbed by a few smells around the hut😉 EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT! »

« After the chick survey, we go to see the tracks of the three bears on the snow bank attached to the beach in front of the hut. »

And here to finish are two videos of this memorable observation:

[next episode 8/10] Another white-haired mammal named ukaleq

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Celia Weight
Celia Weight
Oct 14, 2023

What an extraordinary thrill and privilege to see the big white polar bear and her cubs in their domain ! I love it 🤩

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