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| p.1 #1 · Polar Bear Mum w/ Two Playing Newborn Cubs |
This shot was taken on the day the mum left the den and started to travel towards the ice with her two cubs. This shot was taken in late February -- and what many people don't know is that this mum probably had not had a square meal since she left the melting ice, pregnant, in late May or early June of the previous year. During the warmer summer months, she would have been in a semi-dormant state on land, eating berries and scavenging for food -- but no good meals of seal. And then in late October to November, when the ice freeze-up occurs on Hudson Bay and the other bears head out to feed again, she would have traveled in the other direction to the denning area. And so she had been hanging out inthe den for several months -- giving birth around Xmas and raising these two - getting them strong enough to travel back to the ice. For probably a week or so prior to when this shot ws taken, she had been letting the two cubs take short trips from the den -- at first only a couple of minutes -- but as they gain strength and curiosity, for longer times. Sometimes, the mum will even take them to a day den, several hundred meters or more away ot help get them ready. And then, with her strength and milk supplies rapidly dwindling - and hoping desperately that the two cubs are strong enough to travel -- she departs the den and heads towards the ice which is about 60km away. But don't for a second think that this trip is a walk in the park (pun intended) -- she is only able to move them about 1-2km at a time and then has to stop to rest and feed them (and don't forget the dwindling milk supply). So she can only move them about 10km a day -- so it is a 6 day trip to the ice. Problem is the area they have to travel through has wolves, lots of wolves -- and these wolves are pretty good at seperating a mum with two cubs from one of them. IF she makes it to the ice with one cub she has done a darned good job - if she makes it with both cubs, she is a miracle worker. But it is not a cake walk once she gets them to the ice -- there she has to contend with male bears, who would jsut as soon eat a cub as a seal (no, I think they prefer seal -- but cubs are a tasty snack anyway). So when you see a mum bear with two yearling cubs -- or with a pair of two year old cubs -- you have to truly admire her for the remarkable survival skills and fierce mothering that it takes. These mother bears truly have the toughest job on the planet.
All the best, Andrew
Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada, Nikon D300, VR 600mm f/4, f/4 @ 1/400, Iso 400