Happiness is a Polar Bear Adventure–Part 3 (The Bears)
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a unique and biologically special place that should be preserved. ~ Dan Lipinski
As many of you know, a little over a year ago I sold my house, quit my job and hit the road. I spent the Summer hiking 1000 miles on the Appalachian Trail, my thru-hike ambitions were cut short by a knee injury. But after rehabbing my knee I went north to check off an item on my bucket list that has been near the top for the last couple of years and this is the third part of my writing about the trip.
After arguably the best day of my life, I awoke to the smells of breakfast coming from the lodge kitchen and more activity and noise than was normal. So I dressed pretty quickly and grabbed my camera guessing the activity was bear related and I was correct. The big bear who had been hanging around was still hanging around and was napping outside of the dining room.
A little bit of polar bear biology, polar bears hunt on the Arctic Sea ice flows. Their primary food is the seal, they find air/escape holes and stalk the hole, when a seal pops up, voila, dinner. They do hunt in other ways, running down not so smart humans on the ice, jumping off ice onto prey in the water, they are great swimmers, they also scavenge a lot. However hunting seals on the ice is their primary source of food. So as you can imagine, Summer, kind of sucks for a polar bear. They can handle temperatures well into the minus category and hunt off the ice, so sunny days even in the 40’s and 50’s are brutal and the lack of ice makes food scarce. What this typically means is that most polar bears spend months off of the ice eating little or no food.
This reality spurred on a lot of discussion about this particular bear. You see he was sleeping right outside the dinning room/kitchen, with open windows so we could photograph him, while we were making bacon. Seriously, it seemed more than a little bit cruel. So you may ask, why not throw the brother a little cooked pork. The problem with feeding any wild animal is they lose their fear of humans. In the case of the squirrel in your yard, maybe not a big problem, although squirrels in North America do carry the Bubonic Plague. However in the case of large predators, bears, alligators, mountain lions, making them less afraid of humans, and worse, food conditioned to humans means they will get close and expect food. This leads to bad interactions and unfortunately almost always to the destruction of the animal. So, as cruel as it seemed, as much as truly I wanted to toss him my whole breakfast, it’s not a good idea for the bear. Eventually, it also seemed to be a little too much for him as well.
This bear will always hold a special place for me, he was the first polar bear I ever saw and one I got within two feet of face to face. But later that day I would fall in love with a lovely white furred lady.
We hit the rover with mixed emotions, we would be out looking for wildlife again that day on the rovers but would finish back at the base station and be moving into town for the next couple of nights. We spent most of the morning rolling around with little success and stopped and had lunch in the rover. Right after lunch things picked up as a couple of different bears had been spotted in the area. We got a good look at this guy for a few minutes.
And then our rover driver proved herself to be really, really good at her job. There was another bear spotted a long way away and instead of driving up on it, she pulled around and positioned the rover about a quarter mile away. Why was this so smart, because the bear walked on an almost bee line right to us.
Here are a couple of other shots of bears that I took but haven’t posted, enjoy.