“Apex Predator of the Arctic” - Polar Bear just swam to shore, and is investigating the area. All the while, though, the Bear keeps its eyes on us. Apex predators can be surprisingly subtle as they assess potential prey.
“Testing Testing” - Young male Polar Bears on the ice. Bear on the left was testing the thickness of the ice by rising up on his hind legs, lifting his front paws and crashing them down into it. He soon learned it wasn’t yet solid. The bear on the right was also in testing mode. He was testing the other Bear to determine whether he had found a sparring partner.
“Polar Periscope” - Young male Polar Bear cranes his long neck to sniff out the shore just in front of him. He was surface swimming, with only his head visible, so when he struck this pose it reminded us of a periscope on a submarine.
“Black Hills Badass” - American Badger averages 14-20 pounds and about 24-30 inches long, but it is one fierce animal. We spotted this badger along the side of the road, digging. It was very calm around us - gave us the death stare for a minute or so, figured out we weren’t a threat and continued digging.
“Arctic Dress Rehearsal” - Young male Polar Bears sparring in the icy water. Typically the males are solitary creatures, but they gather together in groups (we saw one group of 8 young males) to play fight and hang out. The fighting isn't serious, but it is constant. One day, when these bears are adults and mating rights are at stake, the battle will be real. This is just a dress rehearsal.
“Here Comes the Boom” Against the backdrop of a magical Arctic sunrise, the larger Polar Bear prepares to deliver the “boom” - clapping his huge paws together on the skull of the smaller bear. Smaller bear seems to be anticipating the pain. Luckily for him this was autumn and these bears were just sparring or play fighting.
“At Rest But Alert” - Polar Bear family takes a break. Mom led the cubs across the icy bay, out to this spit of land off the coast of Kaktovik. It was a journey of a couple miles so she certainly needed a break. However, she needed to remain on the look out for other bears. They could pose a danger to her cubs.
“Curious Cub” - Her mother and brother had moved on with barely a passing glance at the boat full of humans off the shore. This wild female Polar Bear cub usually ignored us. Here she took an interest, getting low and sniffing our scent while watching us intently. Apparently satisfied (or bored) with us after a few moments, she moved on. A brief but invigorating encounter for us anyway.
“Showing Off the Cubs” - We enjoyed watching a couple mothers with their spring cubs in Kaktovik as the freeze up approached. These cubs were probably born in February. heading towards their first winter on the sea ice. Mom at times seems exasperated by them (especially the little male in the center here) but it almost seems like she’s proudly showing them off to the boat full of humans off the coast.
“Testing the Ice” - As the freeze up approaches, this Polar Bear carefully checks the thickness of the ice. Polar Bears have wide, huge paws that allow them to distribute their weight evenly across the ice.