Polar Bear Cubs: Hello New World
Shot on Location:
40 miles South of Hudson Bay, Canada, March 2009 with the Canon 1Ds Mark III, 800mm f/4 and 1.4x TC II
Enjoy heartwarming polar bear scenes from the Arctic, where 2 month old babies emerge from their birthing dens and acclimate to their new world for the very first time.
Polar bear mothers give birth to cubs in the December - January timeframe. After the cubs are born, families remain in their dens for 2 months while the tiny cubs develop and grow. Between mid-February and mid-March, families emerge from earth dens and stay nearby for a week or so, as the cubs get acclimated to their new environment and extreme weather.
The babies are very curious when they first emerge from their den; and, appear delighted with their first venture above ground. They are seeing sunlight and white fluffy snow for the very first time, and are feeling the thrill of wind on their tiny little noses. They learn that Mom is taking them to a very special place and they are excited about going on this new adventure - the journey to the Bay so that everyone can eat real food. Their happy expressions are saying "Are we there yet?"
At this age, cubs have no fat on them to keep them warm and they mostly snuggle under their mother's arms and legs, or compete to ride on top of her back. Temperatures are typically minus 40 to 50F degrees with the arctic wind chill. In addition, there are many hungry predators around, so mothers are always on the alert and never let toddlers stray more than a few feet away.
Because of harsh conditions, mothers make temporary day dens on the side of snowbanks to shelter families as they slowly make the long trek to Hudson Bay. If there aren't any nearby snowbanks, mothers just hunker down deep in the snowdrifts to protect the little ones from gusty winds while they rest. Sometimes, families are so totally covered in snow that they are almost invisible.
The family’s mission is to safety make the 40 plus mile trek to the coastline of Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill, so that mothers can hunt for their primary source of nourishment - fur seals. These moms haven't eaten in 6 - 8 months and are anxious to eat and to regain strength in order to raise her babies to healthy sub-adults.
On the way to the Bay, families take several rest stops as moms are tired from lack of food and sound sleep; and, babies are still very small and vulnerable. It's a miracle that these tiny little feet can travel up to 5 miles a day - and keep up with mom's long legs.
While moms are resting, toddlers are supposed to be resting too. While babies do sleep for hours on end, they can't resist playing and horsing around a bit, while mom tries to sleep with one eye always open.
A mom only gives birth to the number of babies that her body reserves can support. Mother Nature miraculously has a way of telling embryos that mom can only have a single child, twins, or in rare cases - triplets. Unlucky embryos are absorbed back into mom's body.
This gallery features endearing polar bear family moments and includes a mom with one cub, a mom with twins; and, most notably, a mom with the first set of triplets that I ever had the joy and privilege of photographing.
All images © Christina J. Prestegard 2004 - 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.