Polar Bear Courtship
A Fleeting Relationship
The polar winter is unrivalled in its harshness, a night that lasts for months. Only the toughest stay as temperatures plummet to as low as -70°C and yet, the greatest challenge to life here is not the cold, but the extreme swings between the seasons.
When the sun finally returns an extraordinary transformation begins. This frozen world begins to melt away. The polar spring brings a brief opportunity for life. By summer the sun no longer sets and works it's magic for 24 hours a day. Now is a race to breed before the sun departs. By autumn all but the hardiest abandon the poles, and the ice extends its grip. Land and sea close-down for the long winter.
It's spring in the high Arctic and the sun illuminates the giant frozen ocean. The most powerful land predator is on the prowl. A male polar bear is searching for a mate. Willing females are few and far between, and the sea ice on which he travels will soon melt and vanish. He's running out of time to find a mate in this the vast frozen desert. But, 10 miles ahead, a single female without cubs is exactly what the male is seeking.
He seems to relish her scent, even though she's miles away. This is an exciting prospect, as she's clearly giving off the right signals. He locks onto the tracks eager not to lose her trail although this pursuit could last for days. The female polar bear eventually comes into view. The search is finally over! For the female, only half of his weight, this must be a nerve-wracking encounter. The male polar bear could, easily, kill her if he chooses. But, we have other intentions and she is ready and willing.
Polar Bear Mating
She leads him to higher ground. It seems that courting polar bears prefer some privacy. Often leaving the sea ice and heading for the hills to avoid the prying eyes of rival males who might disturb them. Few have witnessed this moment. The male's only tender moment in an otherwise solitary life.
But, it doesn't last long, a rival male has caught the female's scent. The courtship has to be put on hold, to fight the intruding male. After defeating the upstart intruder, he hurries back to his mate, but she seems to have lost enthusiasm. Female polar bears as are high maintenance! Wherever she goes he will follow, mating with her when she allows and guarding her at all times.
Over the next two weeks the male sees off many rivals but, the battles have taken their toll on him. He is almost spent, but, he has ensured that no other bear will mate with his female. It's time for the couple to go their separate ways. She will give birth to his cubs alone. And he may never see her again. He returns to the frozen ocean no doubt relieved to resume his solitary ways.