The Arctic Lives

Polar Bear on Tundra

Polar bears, as a species and as individuals, are survivors. They live in a space all their own; where a polar bear goes, it is polar bear territory. As precious as a baby polar bear looks, it is growing into one of the most dangerous predators on the earth. In the far north, throughout the long winter, the only food source is meat, usually fresh caught. Polar bears hunt seals, reindeer, small mammals, and fish. If they can, they will scavenge whale corpses or other carrion.

With loss of ice at the north, where bears traditionally hunt, mate and birth cubs, the bears have moved onto dry land. Skilled scavengers, the bears will migrate to human villages to pick through rubbish sites. They will also hunt local dogs. Polar bears are the only animal to hunt humans regularly. It is the extreme balance of the North – humans are not the largest carnivore. They are not the most powerful carnivore.

Polar bears have suffered greatly from loss of sea ice, and the migration or devastation of their prey. Only in the far reaches of Europe, on tiny, underpopulated islands and reaches, have polar bears thriven. Svalbard has an increase in bear numbers. But Svalbard is half-way between Norway and Russia. It is primarily a research settlement. Bears are considered the first residents, and have a right to the sea and land. Residents carry rifles when they leave their homes, as bears claim even the streets of the town as their own.

Throughout the world, people have had tales and legends about the bears. Humanity has an uneasy truce with bears. They are much like humans, intelligent and strong. Bears think. They remember.

Bears know more about the earth than humans do. We must make time to hear them.

Polar Bear on Winter Ice