Arctic Travel, Past and Present - Polar Bear Tours
Polar bears are one of the most impressive and effective of the large predators.Their range is slowly being eroded by global warming, and some feel they are next for the endangered species list. Until recently though, any kind of encounter with these majestic creatures outside of films or television, was restricted to a visit to the zoo or a wild animal park. Now, eco-tourists can travel to the high arctic and live, in relative safety, within the bears' territory.
My first, up-close and personal experience with polar bears came when I was about two years old, while trying to slide down "Hershey's" head. Hershey was the name we bestowed on my grandparent's brand-new, huge white polar bear rug - one of the last legal polar bear pelts to come out of the Arctic, and a gift from my parents.
Even as a rug, his attached, razor sharp claws proved a considerable hazard. I still bear the scars of a few of those bare-foot skirmishes. I shudder to think what those claws could have done powered by a live bear.
Man has long been fascinated with exploring the "frozen wastes" at the top of the world. Early European travelers to the land of the Ice Bear had to contend with extremely harsh conditions. Many of the early arctic explorations such as the ill-fated Franklin Expedition have left behind more questions than answers.
I first set foot in the Eastern Arctic at a time when it was part of a strategic network of Cold War listening posts.
Farley Mowat's landmark "The People of the Deer" had already piqued the outside world's curiosity about this strange and austerely beautiful landscape.
This was followed by "Never Cry Wolf", described as "one of the brilliant narratives on the myth and magic of wild wolves and man's true place among the creatures of nature", another great tale guaranteed to whet the public's appetite for seeing the arctic firsthand.
When I lived in Fort Churchill, however, trekking out to see the Polar Bears was considered the sole preserve of research scientists and slightly crazed novelists - or any one else who didn't mind spending untold hours punishing their rear end on the cold, hard metal seat of a Bombardier half-track that reeked of diesel fuel and clanked along with the velvet suspension of a square-wheeled buckboard on a corduroy (log) road.
- Wildlife - Polar Bears - Tour Options
An eco tour operator committed to exciting, exotic and adventurous travel that respects the environment, indigenous peoples, and of course, you. All profits go to charity.
- Alaska Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) and Polar Bear photo tour in Alaska. Guided by professional
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- Experience Polar Bear Tours with the Tundra Buggy Adventure
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- Canada Vacation - Classic Churchill Polar Bears | FreshTracks
Churchill, Manitoba is known as the polar bear capitol of the world. Find out why as you watch the bears gather on this fantastic, 6-day Canadian Vacation.
Um - how close did you want to get to that bear?
The idea of getting close to one of the most powerful and dangerous predators alive was not something I ever relished.
Seeing them in photos and on film shows a different aspect though. They look so soft and white - and the cubs are just too adorable for words.
What is it about these amazing creatures that fascinates us so? Sleek and powerful, able to withstand one of the harshest climates on earth, the ice bear moves with a deceptive, ground-eating stride.
Equally at home in that water as on land, the great white bear is an awe inspiring predator. Only a well-armed and wily hunter, man, has ever bested him.
Whatever it is that attracts us to the ice bear, we are now able to indulge that fascination with a wide variety of options.
Tours of the ice bears' habitat can be as long or a short as your budget can afford. Often the tour will include guided photo-hunts, where your long lens is attached to a camera rather than a rifle scope.
Some tours include a stay in the arctic winter. The surroundings are very high-tech and comfortable, featuring gourmet cuisine, among the other perks.
Some interesting "Polar Bear Facts" from Wikipedia
Unlike grizzly bears, polar bears are not territorial. Although stereotyped as being voraciously aggressive, they are normally cautious in confrontations, and often choose to escape rather than fight.
Fat polar bears rarely attack humans unless severely provoked, whereas hungry polar bears are extremely unpredictable and are known to kill and sometimes eat humans.
Polar bears are stealth hunters, and the victim is often unaware of the bear's presence until the attack is underway.In general, adult polar bears live solitary lives. Yet, they have often been seen playing together for hours at a time and even sleeping in an embrace.
Polar bear zoologist Nikita Ovsianikov has described adult males as having "well-developed friendships". Cubs are especially playful. Among young males in particular, play-fighting may be a means of practicing for serious competition during mating seasons later in life.
In 1992, a photographer near Churchill took a now widely circulated set of photographs of a polar bear playing with a Canadian Eskimo Dog a tenth of its size. The pair wrestled harmlessly together each afternoon for ten days in a row for no apparent reason, although the bear may have been trying to demonstrate its friendliness in the hope of sharing the kennel's food.
When the ice floes break up in the fall, ending the possibility of hunting, each pregnant female digs a maternity den consisting of a narrow entrance tunnel leading to one to three chambers.
Most maternity dens are in snowdrifts, but may also be made underground in permafrost if it is not sufficiently cold yet for snow. Sometime between November and February, cubs are born blind, covered with a light down fur, and weighing less than 0.9 kg - roughly 2.0 lb.
On average, each litter has two cubs. The family remains in the den until mid-February to mid-April, with the mother maintaining her fast while nursing her cubs on a fat-rich milk.
By the time the mother breaks open the entrance to the den, her cubs weigh from 10 to 15 kilograms - about 22 to 33 lb. For about 12 to 15 days, the family spends time outside the den while remaining in its vicinity, the mother grazing on vegetation while the cubs become used to walking and playing.
Then they begin the long walk from the denning area to the sea ice, where the mother can once again catch seals. Female polar bears are noted for both their affection towards their offspring, and their valiance in protecting them.
Hope for their future...
For the time being, many of us can only experience the Ice Bear in an artificial habitat such as our local zoo or wild animal park.
Many fear that these will become the last resort of this, and many other species whose natural habitat has been damaged by man's depredations of their natural environments.
There are no easy answers to these problems. The factors involved are many and complex, but I believe if we have the will to do so, we will find answers. It is my sincere hope that you, too will be able to experience these magnificent and enigmatic creatures in their natural environment.
- WWF - Polar Bear Conservation - WWF: A Leader in Polar Bear Conservation
World Wildlife Fund is a leader in polar bear conservation. Discover more about polar bears and WWF's conservation efforts.
- SAVE THE POLAR BEAR
Polar bears are dying. As global warming accelerates, the sea ice they depend on for survival is literally melting away.
- We do Not Want to Live in a World Without Polar Bears
An online petition to add the Polar Bear to Canada's Endangered Species list. Also contains information about the Polar Bears' current situation and links