10/29/2011 8:01:15 PM
A Drowsy Giant
Today was the last day of my week on the Tundra Buggy® Lodge and Buggy One, and what a great week it was. It's an amazing experience to wake up with a polar bear right outside the window looking in at us. Just this morning, one of the bears was hanging out under the walkway between two of the lodge's buggies; we could look right down through the gate at him just a couple feet below us. Talk about getting up close and personal! However, he soon decided to leave us and make his daybed in some kelp a short distance away. We watched as made his bed using his nose and paws until he was satisfied, then he settled in for a long nap.
Later in the morning a curious, though smaller, polar bear wandered over to the same area and inadvertently woke up our sleeping bear. The drowsy giant quickly got to his feet and after a cursory glance, decided he wanted to get to know this intruder better. He started over to her, but she was having none of that and broke into a light run down the coast to avoid any confrontation. Luckily our drowsy giant seemed unconcerned about this rejection, and took a few minutes making a new kelp bed before settling down again for the afternoon.
Down the coast a little later we spotted a bear chewing on something. On closer inspection we saw that it was a shed caribou antler that he was gnawing on. After a few minutes, he got up and sniffed out a bone about 30 meters away, likely from the same unfortunate caribou. He looked very content lying on his stomach with the bone propped up between his two front paws, chewing on it just as a dog would chew on a bone.
It has been so incredible for me to be surrounded by polar bears who are relaxed and doing whatever comes naturally to them. I love the field work involved in my job, but I usually only get to see these bears up close after they have been tranquilized. To watch a polar bear in its natural environment is so special, and I believe it helps me to understand them in a way that I wouldn't be able to by solely looking at data on my computer. Being able to connect with classrooms far away through PBI Tundra Connections and show them what the polar bears are doing in the moment has been awesome as well; the kids seemed to love it as much as we do when a polar bear walks by.
Another bonus of this week was getting the Polar Bear Cam up and running. Cameras mounted on Buggy One and the Tundra Buggy Lodge stream live video of the bears surrounding us, so that anyone anywhere in the world can see exactly what we see at the same time that we see it. The cam has already caught some great action out here, including a polar bear-wolverine interaction yesterday. I'm sure it will continue to capture many great moments on the tundra, and the action will only increase as the temperatures go down and it starts to snow.
Unfortunately, it is still warm out here for this time of year and it may be awhile longer before the bears get the really cold temperatures they are waiting for so that they can start making their way out onto the ice to find some real food. Until then, they'll have to make do with occupying their time with naps and any interesting little scraps scattered across the landscape.