The following entry is from my Field Journal originally posted under the title, “Another Season of Cape Churchill Polar Bear Photography”
The days beautiful light was tempered by a scene I will never forget. Earlier this week we saw a mother bear with two little cubs. All three were extremely skinny, bones protruding from the hide of the gaunt and sickly looking adult. The cubs looked equally at risk. It was a horrible sight but it got worse. The next day we found the mother lying in a snow bank taking refuge from the wind as best she could. She was very close to camp and showed no concern for the buggy as we slowly approached to get a better look. At first none of us had any idea it was the mother and her cubs we saw the day before but as another bear came by she rose from her bed of drifted snow and charged as best she could. It was obvious this mother and her cubs were in exceptionally poor condition. Though we so far have no proof it looked as though all three were on the verge of starvation.
As the mother came back to guard her cubs, each poked their heads above the frigid ridge of icy snow. Mother tried desperately to get comfortable as she hunkered down to escape the blowing wind. She would extend one leg forward, then the next, lowering her body to retract her form. As soon as she were down back up she would raise, lifting one paw then the other. Curling up on one elbow, rolling over to the other. Back and forth she worked, trying desperately to find some sort of comfort in a land that knows no such word. Each attempt found zero solace and her discomfort was painfully obvious.
During our time watching this family of bears fight for survival, one of the cubs twice sat up. At first it looked like normal curiously but as he scanned beyond their wintery bed his little head developed an obviously abnormal tick. Without warning his body seized in a fit of violent convulsions. The first was not as bad as the second. The second was so intense it seemed impossible he could have lived. It was one of the most horrific scenes I have ever witnessed in the world of nature and one that scientists predict will repeat itself much more frequently as Hudson Bay freezes later and later each winter season. This incredibly beautiful, magnificent little animal was slowly dieing and all who had witnessed it were moved beyond words. Time passed and his little head moved ever so slightly. He was still alive but we all wondered for how long he could hang on. The sun had set and it was time to return to the lodge. The next day would tell the story more completely and we would have to wait to see mother nature take its course. We were hoping for he best
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