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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Hunting For (and By) Polar Bears

Air Date: Week of

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Arvia’juaq, is a small island in Hudson Bay, and a good place to find polar bears. But as Mark Seth Lender finds out on his journey North, when you are out hunting for bear the bear might be hunting, too.


CURWOOD: Heading north now, up to a small island in its northwest corner of Hudson Bay called Arvia’juaq. Writer Mark Seth Lender went there with an Inuit guide Billy Ukutak, to look for polar bears. But as Mark learned the hard way, when you are out hunting for bears the bears might be hunting, too.

Bear, Hunting
© 2012 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

LENDER: There they are: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, side by side, white as old bone China. Bellies swaying they come up over the rise, and scent the air. They look down at the beach and watch us drift, dragging on our anchor, just out of reach. They have a fine and friendly look. Smooth brow and lips in the line of a permanent smile along the jaw. Little bear raises his little round ears like a dog who wants to play. You cannot see his teeth. Or hers. Only massive paws and the small black eyes.

Little Bear nuzzles his mother, leans in to her ear like he’s whispered some small and secret want. And now she’s looking at us too, in a brief transfixing stare, head lowered so you can see how big her shoulders are, and the power there. And down the bank she comes. And ambles in. And dunks her head into the frigid polar sea as if there’s something of interest there...

I’ve got a secret for you (photo: Mark Seth Lender)

She stares at us again.

And walks away, and looks, again.

And angles back as if she intends to investigate that shoal over there. And turns, toward us, and moves our way that much deeper and further into the Bay. And the wind shifts and the boat swings.

And the little one (so much as five hundred pounds of polar bear is small) takes it all in to learn just how it’s done. His mother’s final gambit when it comes will be to disappear beneath the choppy little waves. And all our attention focused where she used to be, she’ll come up on the other side with a roar of water like the inrushing tide… And the last we’d hear. Like seals, knocked off a floe berg.

Polar Bears are great swimmers! (photo: Mark Seth Lender)

And it’s time to get the hell out of here.

Leave the anchor cut the line pull out the choke and yank the starter cord as hard as you can while the motor sputters like a drowning man: hope-hope-hope; hope; hope… hope-hope-hope. Hope.

CURWOOD: The fieldwork for Mark Seth Lender’s essay was supported by the Hamlet of Arviat and Arviat Community Ecotourism. For photographs of Momma Bear and Baby Bear, lumber on over to our website, LOE.org.



Check out more essays and photos from Mark Seth Lender at his website

Find out more about the island of Arvia’juaq


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