Last Day

4/17/2012 2:48:38 PM

Last Day


My eyes scan the sea ice, searching for movement. Every ice formation looks as if it could be a polar bear. The wind blows and I'm so anxious about the possibility of seeing a bear that my mind plays tricks on me—and I think the ice is a bear. However, we don't sight any bears on the ice today. 

 On the sea ice with snow machines and dogs
Traveling by snow machine across the sea ice as the Karelian Bear Dogs sniff for dens.

Today is our last day and our last search for abandoned polar bear dens. We're heading out to Cottle Island, a barrier island off the coast of Prudhoe Bay. Kavik and Grace search the entire island but give us no positive sign of a den.

Team members
Den study team members, including the Karelian Bear Dogs, pose for the camera.

We dig a snow pit to get an understanding of the snow layers comprising the entire winter's snowpack. It is 1.5 meters deep and I feel quite warm after digging the pit.

Snow pit
The den study team digs a snow pit to study the snow layers.

We leave Cottle Island and travel to a gravel site that in past years have denned polar bears. Polar Bears International and a team from Brigham Young University have set up cameras here hoping to catch the bears and cubs emerging. We scan the drifts for any signs of disturbance in the snow, tracks or other possible indication of den emergence. Today, there are none. If in fact there is a bear here, it is getting late in the year for an emergence. Perhaps, the long winter has kept the family in their den longer. Time will tell, but today the secrets are still not revealed.

A camera set up by the PBI Maternal Den Team
A camera set up by the PBI Maternal Den Study team waits to see if a polar bear family emerges from the den.

Photos copyright April Cheuvront.

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