11/20/2010 12:15:48 AM

The World of the Polar Bear

Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and watch this amazing world of the polar bear. I get so caught up in taking photos that I feel I'm missing some of the moments that simply take your breath away. Watching the bears through binoculars today, I saw greetings between bears, bears that didn't want to be greeted, and a large male that was willing to adjust his sparring techniques to adapt to his partner.

This big guy had quite a sparring match with another bear close to his size and then headed off to find someone new. A couple of smaller bears quickly changed direction when they saw the size of this guy! He finally found a willing participant in a bear smaller than him, but curious to check him out. They circled each other, sniffed the ground, looked at each other but not directly and then finally touched noses and did some open-mouth scent checks. When both were willing to play, big guy tried his rough sparring twice and when the other bear shied away, he fell to the ground for some light sparring! This was acceptable to both partners!

Two bears

The tundra finally looks more wintry today. The fresh water ponds have frozen over more. The grease ice (milky looking slush) along the shore of the bay looked like it had frozen a bit overnight. Is winter finally coming? When will the bay freeze? I feel like that is what the bears are wondering to as I watch them standing on the shore and looking out over the bay.

Single bear

This is the first year that I have been here in November and it should be much more frozen by now. I was told that on a typical year, the freshwater ponds are completely frozen, the bay is starting to freeze and there is more snow. It looks much like it does in October: you can still see lots of the moss and lichen, which should be covered with snow. The colors are beautiful and the weather is great for people—but not for the bears. Tomorrow is my last day out on the tundra before heading home. Wishing for freezing temperatures and some promise of ice soon for the bears.

Photo Credits: ©Alicia Shelley.

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