Svalbard Summer 2014 (2) : Snowy Bear

It is of course natural to associate Polar Bears with ice or snow as this is part of their natural habitat. However, until this trip, i had never had the chance to photograph a polar bear under falling snow. Svalbard is in fact a rather dry place, and in summer, when something falls from the sky, it’s usually a light, cold drizzle.

That day we struggled to find anything at first. We were exploring an area along the North coast of Svalbard where we had been tipped that a few bears were feeding on a pod of dead dolphins that had been trapped by ice a couple of weeks ago, drowned and ran aground. After a couple of hours we had indeed found a number of dead carcasses but it seemed the bears had already finished their meal. But finally we spotted that yellowish patch (polar bears on ice or snow look yellow colored) on a snowy slope, and it turned out to be the bear we were looking for, feeding on yet another dead dolphin. It was an enormous bear, by far the fattest i had ever seen, no wonder after a feast of several dolphins, it seemed to be well over 500 kg.

As preposterous as it may sound for those of you who have never seen a Polar Bear in the wild, watching a bear feeding on a carcass, and thereafter taking a rest, is not, after several hours, such a breathtaking sight, and when you mix in the cold and the poor weather, mist and light rain, it is no surprise that at around 3am half of our group called it a day, leaving only the most “hardcore” of us waiting for something to happen… And sure enough it did, the light rain/wet snow turned into a true snow storm with beautiful flakes, and that’s when the bear finally woke up and came closer to us, giving us great photograph opportunities against a backdrop of snow and black rocks.

I chose to edit those pictures in black and white, don’t hesitate to leave a comment to let me know what you think !

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