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The Fighter

/ Post by Katie Billing of Polar Bears International

The heap of crème fur is moving up and down in the grass, the cold breath escaping the body of the large male bear as he rests in the tundra brush. The snowflakes fall on the tip of his black nose as he exhales. Suddenly the bear catches a new smell and he lifts his head. His deep brown eyes scan the horizon as he spots another bear approaching in the distance. The new bear is walking across freshly fallen snow, his hind paws stepping in the footprints from his front paws. The male bear is creating traction to support his 1,500-pound body. The sleepy bear sits up and eyes the approaching male.  Is he a threat? Will he steal sleepy bear’s kelp bed? As the new bear approaches, sleepy bear stands up. He is not ready to succumb his well-made kelp bed. Their breathy fog joins the snowfall as they approach to one another.

They begin their bear greeting. Both males open their mouths, sizing each other up. Is he close in size? Will this be a worthy fight? The bears begin to circle each other. Sleepy bear no longer has a dreamy fog in his eyes; instead a fire begins to burn. The only heat in this barren ice land is the fierce passion the polar bears have burning in their eyes.  Polar bears have to fight for females, for maintaining their kelp beds, and fight for their own lives as they cross the ice.

New bear lifts his 12-inch paw and smacks old bear across the shoulder. Passionate bear will not dismiss new bear’s gesture. He jumps at the newcomer. Soon a bear fight has begun. The bears paw at each other. They stand on their hind legs biting at one another. This fight will not be fatal. The battle is more like a game. Winner gets a fresh kelp bed. Loser has to move on. Male bears enjoy sparring. To them it makes life more interesting as they wait for the ice to freeze.

The fight becomes more intense as new bear lets loose an exasperated breath of air. Passion bear bites at his head and the unwelcome guest falls to the ground. The bears begin a wrestling match. Passion bear pins new bear on the ground and smacks him with a paw. New bear struggles and pushes back. The masses of crème fur roll around in the heaps of snow encircling them. Finally, new bear gets up and gallops away. He slows to a regular pace and lays down in the shrubs a few meters away. Passion bear has won. He meanders back to his kelp bed and rests his body after the excitement. Passion bear looks up at me and I lower my camera lens. His power has me entranced. He lets out another wisp of breath as he closes his eyes to sleep. The Tundra Buggies linger a little longer around the sparring site until it is time to head back to the Tundra Buggy Lodge.