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Watch What Happens When A Starving Polar Bear Approaches A Dog



Dubbed the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill, Manitoba is located on the Western shore of Canada’s Hudson Bay and is one of the few human settlements where people can observe polar bears in the wild. Every year, groups of tourists, photographers, and scientists flock to the area during the polar bears’ annual migration where they get a rare chance to view these animals up close and personal.

“The most inspiring element of this adventure is the opportunity to lock your gaze with a wild polar bear,” said one of the tourists.

It was during one of these tours that they got to witness an encounter that was much more than they had bargained for.

Renowned German wildlife photographer, Robert Norsing, had traveled to the small town searching for polar bears to photograph. While visiting Mile 5 Sanctuary, he spotted a group of chained-up sled dogs — and a massive polar bear quickly approaching.

“I had no idea what was going to happen — I was worried for the dogs!” he said.

The sanctuary, owned and run by Brian Ladoon, is home to over 40 sled dogs who he keeps loosely chained behind his house. His life’s work revolves around breeding and restoring the Canadian Eskimo dog breed, while simultaneously running a polar bear roadside attraction to allow tourists to safely view the bears that freely roam inside and around the sanctuary.

On this autumn afternoon, Norsing, who is well known for his stunning photographs of polar bears in the Arctic, anxiously awaits to see what would come from such an unlikely encounter between the polar bear and the dogs – one which he had never witnessed before in his years of photographing them.

From Norbert’s study of polar bears, he knew that the 1,200 pound male bear would likely be hungry during this time of year, especially after not eating much during the recent spring and summer months. As the bear approached, Brian’s dogs went crazy. Rosing couldn’t believe what happened next.

All of Brian’s dogs stood their ground, furiously barking to let the polar bear know to keep his distance — all but one, named Hudson, who Rosing says,

“calmly stood his ground and began wagging his tail.”

To Rosing and Ladoons’ surprise, the pair “put aside their ancestral animus,” gently touching noses and trying to make friends. The polar bear began playfully poking Hudson with his paws and nudging him with his nose. Hudson even appeared to catch on to the bears playful demeanor.

But it didn’t stop there.

Just then, a second polar bear arrived and began advancing towards another one of Ladoon’s dogs, Barren. At first, it appeared as though the second polar bear wasn’t going to be as friendly as the first that arrived. Rosing was worried the bout of playfulness was over until he saw what happened next.

The bear begins to roll over and lay on his back, while the pair exchanges a bout of playful banter:

“like two roughhousing kids,”

Rosing says, as he photographs them tumbling around in the snow. He was amazed to see not one, but two polar bears exchanging such friendly gestures with the dogs!

The bears came back to visit Brian’s dogs nearly ten days in a row for several more play sessions, all the while Rosing continued photographing the encounters. The photographs astonished everyone to the point where National Geographic published an article called “Animals At Play”.

As heartwarming as these photos are, you would think these shots would be a huge success; however, in actuality, people ended up hating them. They couldn’t believe the interaction could possibly be real, but there’s an alternate theory that may explain why the polar bears befriended the dogs instead of making a meal out of them.

Many people aren’t aware that polar bears don’t actually hibernate during the colder, fall and winter months. In fact, it’s actually during this time of year that they have the most food readily available. Due to the dense ice coverage on the ocean, their prey has very limited openings in the ice to breathe through. Eventually, the seals need to come up for air and when they do, these clever polar bears are waiting.

Every fall, hundreds of polar bears gather in and around Churchill, awaiting ice to form on the nearby Hudson Bay. When the temperature got cold enough, they’d walk through town, hop on the ice and sail out in search of fish and seals to eat.

Sandra Elvin, a Society program officer for National Geographic who used to guide polar bear expeditions in Manitoba and is familiar with Ladoon’s operation, says:

“Brian overfeeds his dogs in that one area, which inadvertently lures in the bears or as some people would call it—baiting.”

“Being intelligent and amazing, polar bears have learned to associate dogs with extra food, and have realized that without dogs, there is no food. Thus, the bears do not kill the dogs,” Sandra says.

Similar to orcas have been known to toss seals around before deciding whether to return them to land or eat them.

In an attempt to understand the behavior, Polar Bears International scientist Tom Smith told the Washington Post,

“bears have a “curiosity quotient” and ask questions with their teeth and paws.”

It’s possible that when the bear approached Brian’s dogs and they became submissive, the bear took this as an invitation for a playdate.


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