Polar Bear – Barents Sea near Svalbard
It was nearing the end of the trip of a lifetime. The guides were starting to wonder if another bear encounter would even impress us (of course!) They managed to top it by spotting a mom and 3 yearling cubs – an incredible rarity. They were on the move with fresh blood from a recent meal covering their fur. They approached the boat but as they got close it was difficult to photograph them as a group because they spread out. As they left us they crossed open water cleaning off the fresh blood. They lay down far enough away that they were a speck in the binoculars. Our amazing captain thought he could see an open channel where we could view them from the other side so we traveled out of the ice flow, around the outside and in from another angle. The skill and experience of our captain enabled him to navigate the moving ice flows and allowed us to capture the mom and cubs curled up on the ice – napping off their meal. After the encounter as we were looking through our photos and zooming in we realized that one – and only one – cub was tagged with a small device in its ear. This would be highly unusual to tag only one cub. Our guides thought this might indicate that the tagged cub was adopted by the mom of twins. After the trip one of our guides confirmed with the polar bear institute that they had not tagged only one cub in a family. Whatever the biology is it was spectacular to see a mom taking care of three well fed cubs.