When National Geographic published photos last year of a sickly looking polar bear, it raised a lot of questions. Many people took the emaciated bear as a warning about the dangers of climate change, although some argued that illness, such as cancer, may have led to its condition. Regardless of how the bear ended up in those circumstances, the photo was an affecting portrait of starvation.
But last month, a Labrador woman shared a selection of photos reminding us what these animals look like when they’re healthy and happy.
Jenna Flowers found the bear about 25 kilometres from Hopedale, where her friend had seen one a few days before. It was rolling around in the snow, playing, and Flowers quickly shot some photos, which hundreds of people have shared on social media.
“I knew people liked polar bears but I didn’t know it would get this popular,” she told the CBC radio program Labrador Morning.
The bear wasn’t too phased by the presence of humans, though it did run away when it first spotted them. However, it soon circled back.
“But he was really tame even after he ran away and turned back around and posed for some more pictures,” Flowers said.
Many of the photos show the bear rolling and digging in the snow. “I suppose he was cooling off because it was a warm sunny day.”
While we often see polar bears as serious predators, they do have a playful side. A few years ago, a Manitoba man’s photo of a polar bear playing in a field of flowers was recognized as one of that year’s best photos from around the world.
Due to the shrinking of sea ice, there may be some hard times for polar bears ahead, but it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate the populations that are healthy and doing well. In Hopedale, polar bears seem to be thriving, so much so that each year Inuit communities are able to take part in a hunt.
“I think some people see sick polar bears and just assume that it’s all of them,” said Flowers. “But we hunt polar bears here every year. There’s three licences that go out [in Hopedale] every year and pretty much every polar bear we see is just as healthy as that one.”