Here’s the best spot on Earth to see polar bears in the wild – National Geographic

Here’s the best spot on Earth to see polar bears in the wild – National Geographic

The poetic collective noun for polar bears is an “aurora,” but around the community of Kaktovik they may be more accurately described as an “inevitability” of polar bears. Elsewhere in the Arctic, spotting the planet’s largest land predator can be a bit of a lottery, requiring binoculars and considerable luck. Here, on Barter Island, off the north coast of Alaska, neither are required.

I’m heading out into a cold Arctic afternoon with Riley Barnes, a New Yorker ordinarily employed as a stuntman on features as varied as Avengers: Endgame and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. While between projects, the 27-year-old heard about “wild work” skippering boats and searching for polar bears for Kaktovik Arctic Tours, so decided to swap one uncommon job for another. This meant relocating to the frigid Alaskan coast known as the North Slope. 

We’re not even 10 minutes out of Kaktovik’s rudimentary harbor before we’ve seen a cautious mother with two young cubs, the larger one at the front, a younger, smaller sibling scurrying behind like it’s forgotten its schoolbag. The adult sits down on the brownish sand, immediately sullying her pristine white coat, then, in a moment of uncanny tenderness, lets the youngsters in to suckle.

An hour later, the gentle perfection of this scene is forgotten when we see two males in the water, grappling with each other with the fury of drunk berserkers. “They’re just playing,” says Riley, and I believe him, but if this roughhousing happened to almost any other species, there’d be nothing left afterwards but fleshy spaghetti. 

Riley says that in the weeks he’s been working here, the number of polar bears has varied from day to day, but he’s never failed to find at least a few. Their residence here over the summer months is partly due to man. Kaktovik’s Native Iñupiat population is permitted to kill three bowhead whales a year—having done this, they then flense their huge carcasses on the edge of town. Before distributing the meat equally among the community, what remains—dragged to nearby sandbars—belongs to the bears. 

A polar bear approaches the remnants of a bowhead whale in Kaktovik, Alaska.

Photograph by Jamie Lafferty

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Please be respectful of copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Please be respectful of copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Left: Two polar bears, likely siblings, doze off in Kaktovik, Alaska.

Right: A family of sand-covered bears pick up a scent in the air in Kaktovik, Alaska.

Photographs by Jamie Lafferty

With webbed paws and insulated fur, polar bears are adept swimmers—their Latin name for polar bear means “sea bear.”

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Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/heres-the-best-spot-on-earth-to-see-polar-bears-in-the-wild

fishing and hunting expeditions