Photographer Captures Incredible Pictures of Polar Bears Playing in a Field of Fireweed

Photographer Captures Incredible Pictures of Polar Bears Playing in a Field of Fireweed

When you think of polar bears, you think of big white bears lying in the snow-white background of the Arctic. Then, on occasions when you see a polar bear in an environment different from the snow-filled ones you are used to, you sort of do a double-take and might even think it’s animated.

However, this wildlife photographer has gone the extra mile to show the other side of these majestic creatures. 

Dennis Fast

Internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer Dennis Fast with his passion for photography has taken stunning images of wildlife over the years. Photographs taken by the Canadian photographer are featured in exhibits all over the world. 

According to Fast,Photography has taught me to seek the delicate moments in nature where life is on the edge and where change is a heartbeat away. My hope is to touch people’s minds and hearts; to help them reconnect with the earth; and to teach respect and gratitude for all of nature. I hope my photos do that for you. Beauty is everywhere if you look, but it begins first of all in the heart.” [1]

Polar bears in fireweed 

Fast took some photos of polar bears in a field of fireweed. The photos went viral and have been featured in numerous magazines and websites across the globe. They certainly answer the question of what polar bears do during summer or any other season aside from winter. If you thought they stay under a huge rock and hibernate till the next winter, then you’re in for a treat. 

The photos were taken in an area on the western shore of Hudson Bay, in Churchill, Manitoba, Northern Canada. 

In an interview with My Modern Met, Fast addressed his love for polar bears, saying, “It’s not just their color that makes them a favorite target of my camera. They have a slow, ambling gait as they drift about looking for anything that moves. It looks like they don’t have a care in the world, and that there is nothing they are afraid of. It’s not arrogance, exactly, but a quiet confidence that we often respect in humans and that translates well to the polar bear.” [2]

These massive carnivores are pretty scary

They can kill a huge seal and drag it through a large distance. Also, they have been known to attack human beings. So how does Fast capture these images without getting hurt? 

Perhaps it’s because he’s the chief photographer of the Churchill Wild Resort and that has made him become somewhat of a regular sight for these bears. 

He admits that nothing escapes their notice and thus, when I see one, I know it is already aware of me and that it will likely check me out. The tension mounts, and once again I hope I get a meaningful shot of this magnificent beast and live to tell the tale!” he said. 

However, they not only need to get used to your presence but also need to know that you are not out to hurt them. 

Also, it probably helped that his camp was surrounded by a temporary chain link fence constructed with strands of electric wire. 

He then recounts a few special moments when the bears behaved like it’s perfectly normal for him to be in their presence. 

I have seen a huge male hold several blades of grass in his giant paws and chew on them for a long time as though he enjoyed the texture,” he said.

On another occasion, I laughed out loud as I watched a relaxed polar bear bare his teeth to pluck a single flower from a stem of fireweed blossoms and roll it around between his lips! Perhaps he viewed it as an appetizer, he added. [3]

Most people think taking photos of polar bears in the summer will be a walk in the park

or a walk in a field of fireweed. That is not true. Indeed, winter conditions are not great, even for the bears. But in the summer, it’s quite hot with temperatures reaching 35ºC. This rise in temperature leads to an increase in insects and flies which not only disturbs the photographer but also makes the bears restless. Also, they don’t have much to eat which can make them agitated. 

As for autumn, Fast said, “Sometimes fall is the best time, as there are no bugs and the days feature blue skies and gentle breezes.” 

The best time to see polar bears in the wild 

If the pictures above have made you curious or interested in getting some candid polar bear images, then you are in for some good news. Polar bears can be seen in the wild all year round. To see them in any season, you just need to be in the right place. 

Polar bear in fall

Polar bear in summer

Churchill Bay, Manitoba is the best place in the world to see polar bears. It is regarded as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” 

They offer safaris to watch polar bears 

And you can lodge in one of their luxury eco-lodges. There are numerous polar bear-watching safaris offered at the bay which you can enjoy in the winter, summer, fall, and early spring. 

You could also see black bears, moose, wolves, arctic terns, and other wildlife there. And if you are in luck, you could see the northern lights.

Black bear in Churchill

Moose in Churchill

Wolf in Churchill

Arctic Tern

Northern lights

Life cycle of a polar bear 

The life cycle of a polar bear consists of six stages which include birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, mating, and death. 

Polar bears give birth in the winter period, typically December, to one or three cubs. From birth (in December) to around April, the cubs that are about the same size as a chipmunk stay with their mother, being fed with her milk. 

Also, because of how small and vulnerable — not to mention blind — they are, they depend on their mother for food and heat. The fat-rich milk of the mother ensures a very fast growth rate for the cubs. 

Next is the period when the cubs live their den. Before now, they would have been taking short leaves outside the den to get used to temperatures. Therefore, when they leave, they are a bit used to the cold. 

The polar bear mother hunts for seals which the cubs will be able to eat at this point. Also, they learn as much about surviving in the wild as they can from their more experienced mother. They stay with their mothers for about three years before going out on their own. 

Female polar bears begin mating at 4–5 years and have a gestation period of 195–265 days, whereas the males begin mating at 5 or 6 years, with a prime breeding age of 10. The males seek out their mates by following their scents. Polar bears are polygynous, therefore, after mating, the bears stay together for about a week before they separate and the males begin the search for another mate. [4] 

Denning, this is when the female polar bears get ready for the birth of their cubs. It’s usually around fall or winter. 

First, they feed themselves so they can gain as much weight as possible, up to 200 kg. This is so they can survive the long denning season. 

Then, they begin to build their dens, deep dens on snow drifts on land, sea ice, or snowbanks where they nurse their clubs in the winter and keep them warm. 

Image copied from zoologist.com

After the cubs have been born and taken care of, the life cycle of the polar bear is essentially complete — at least till it dies. A polar bear in captivity can live up to 25 years, while those in the wild can live for about 15 to 18 years.

The future of polar bears 

Polar bears are walking on thin ice — literally. With global warming and melting sea ice, polar bears are likely to starve to death. This is as a result of the decline in their major food source — seals — due to global warming.

Based on satellite imagery, there is about 770,000 square miles less ice than the 1981 to 2010 median. [5]

Other than lack of seals for food, there are other threats to polar bears. These include pollution, disease, poor habitat protection, and poaching. [6]

With a little over 23,000 polar bears currently in existence worldwide, they have been listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act. [7]

As for their future, estimates are not promising for them. 

According to Andrew Derocher, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta and past Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group, “The best estimates we’ve got indicate that we’ll probably lose somewhere around two-thirds of the world’s bears somewhere around mid-century, just based on the simple fact that we’re losing sea ice. No sea ice means no seals. And no seals means no polar bears.” [8]

As much as the future of these bears is on the grim side, it is nice to see them in a different light, all thanks to Dennis Fast and his astonishing photos. 

However, if you want them around for as long as possible, then perhaps we need to band together and do the little we can to slow global warming. Even if it’s just burning less trash, and recycling more. Hopefully, these creatures survive more than the statistics show they will.

References

  1. DENNIS FAST PHOTOGRAPHY.” Dennis Fast. Editor. Accessed February 7, 2020.
  2. Canadian Photographer Captures Polar Bears Playing In Flower Fields.” Bored Panda. Dainius. Accessed February 7, 2020.
  3. Interview: Playful Photos of Polar Bears Frolicking in Flower Fields During Summer.My Modern Met. Jenny Zhang. August 17, 2015.
  4. POLAR BEAR REPRODUCTION.WWF. Editor. Accessed February 7, 2020.
  5. Polar Bears Really Are Starving Because of Global Warming, Study Shows.” National Geographic. Stephen Leahy. February 1, 2018.
  6. Are Polar Bears Endangered?Polar Bears International. Editor. Accessed February 7, 2020.
  7. Polar Bear Facts.” World Wildlife. Editor. Accessed February 7, 2020.
  8. Will polar bears become extinct?” BBC. Jane Palmer. November 5, 2014.
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