Polar Bear Cubs
Rearing a Family in an Inhospitable Environment
Polar Bear Cubs
A female polar bear emerges from her den beneath the snow. The sun must be a welcome relief after so long in the darkness. Her den is on a high slope, well away from hungry male bears who would kill her cubs, but close enough to the sea ice where she can find food for her extraordinary new family - three young cubs.
If she can raise them all to independence, itíll be a rare achievement.
One of the cubs is underweight and will be fortunate to survive these early weeks. If the family reaches the sea ice, where the female can catch seals, her milk will be enriched, and the smaller cub will quickly gain size and strength.
The sea ice, though, is a dangerous place. The male polar bear has been out on the frozen ocean all winter. Times have been lean, and a bear cub would
certainly make a welcome snack. However, the mainstay of his diet is seals, and now is the time when they have their pups. The surface of the frozen
sea is marked with pressure ridges, and cracks created by the fluctuating tides.
Polar Bear Punch
Both are good places to look for seals. He has detected a seal den beneath the ice. Now he must pin-point it, using only his extraordinary sense of smell. By treading lightly, he can avoid scaring his prey.
He will need to punch through a metre of snow to reach the den, and if his aim is not exactly on target, the seal will certainly escape. In fact, the ringed seal abandoned her den just a few hours ago and her pup has climbed up onto the surface. Itís more exposed up here, but itís easier to see an approaching bear. The pup is well camouflaged. Difficult to see when its mother has left to go fishing.
But the bear can still smell it. Nine out of ten polar bear hunts end in failure.