Back from a wonderful trip – we had good aurora, great polar bear viewing, and unbelievable autumn colors. Unfortunately, this bear put a damper on the bear viewing.
This was a photograph of a bear we spotted our first evening completely wrapped in a net. Being a powerful, huge, male polar bear, I though possibly it could rip its way out of the predicament. We were back out early the next morning, and it was clear the poor guy was even more trapped, and raised a lot of concern with me and my group.
When I returned I immediately contacted the Refuge Manager for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He was very concerned, and put me in contact with the folks with Marine Mammals who asked to see photos and immediately planned to jump into action.
But, thanks to weather and other delays, nothing appeared to be happening, at least from our remote point of view. It also appeared the polar bear could no longer walk, and was laying in the same place for our final two days. It was frustrating and discouraging.
On our final morning, I noticed a light on in the U.S. Fish in Wildlife house, so I stopped in and asked if I could bring my group in, as they had many questions. Polar Bear Wildlife Biologist Christopher Putnam graciously spent a good hour and a half answering questions and explaining the complexities in rescuing this bear. Although they had rescue folks and even a helicopter on route, the village would be an important part of any decision, and it was very possible the bear could just be dispensed. Even if a rescue was attempted, Christopher estimated the chances of success at about 50%. Usually bear tranquilizing takes place on open ice so that the bear didn’t have access to the water which would lead to its demise. It felt good to know so much was being done for this bear, but discouraging as well, as it seemed like its chances of survival were slim.
Well when we arrived into Fairbanks after a few days exploring the Dalton Highway, we were greeted with the great news that the polar bear had been rescued! Here is the story: Polar Bear Rescue. It felt good to have a small part in this polar bears rescue!