Friday, November 25, 2011

More Pictures From Churchill: The Polar Bears!!

What I assume all of my regular readers have been waiting for .... the polar bear pictures and videos! I think one reason this took so long in coming is that it definitely was the hardest post of the trip to write. Actually, the hard part is selecting the pictures. We were out on the tundra for three full days and probably saw between 15 to 20 bears each day. That's a lot of bears and a lot of bear behavior and a lot of pictures and video. Hope you enjoy the selections I've made and find the reason why I chose them interesting.

So, obviously we saw a lot of bears just lying around doing nothing.

Other times we saw them interacting with each other. The area around Churchill is the only place polar bears show social behavior. In other parts of the world the bears are solitary as they complete for food. Here the bears are all waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze and, once that happens, they will resume the typical solitary behavior.

Most of the time they ignored us but every now and then their curiosity got the better of them and they came over to the rovers and looked up at us or got real close, went up on their hind paws with their front paws on the rover, and gave us a thorough look-at through the window.

We saw a lot of playful sparring ... bears up on their hind legs pushing and shoving. This behavior strengthens the bear and will help its survival because once it is on the ice the bear will rise on its hind legs and punch down on the ice with its powerful forequarters in order to break the ice and get at seals they see below it.

I found it interesting that as big and strong as these bears are, with no natural predator, they can still be easily spooked. When we had the windows of the rover open, the only thing you would hear was the clicking of shutters. We all spoke in a whisper and no one out on the back deck made any quick movements. Notice in this video how this bear got startled and walked away. And look at the size of the paws! I couldn't get over how HUGE they are.

And some of the time I just watched as the bears walked along the shore, sniffing the air, and pretty much just minding their own business.

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