A glimpse into the life of a polar bear family

One Ocean Expeditions’ polar bear expert Nicholas Pilfold speaks about a unique bear encounter in the Arctic

Travelling in the High Arctic on an expedition ship is filled with adventures and life changing experiences every day. Nicolas Pilfold, a polar bear expert and guide with One Ocean Expeditions shares a very unique polar bear sighting he experienced this summer, travelling on board One Ocean Navigator/Akademik Ioffe along the coast of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

After a fantastic day along the ice edge in Baffin Bay, we were treated to a rare sight: A mother with three cubs swimming out in the open water. As we slowed the ship to take a better look, the family group swam a little closer to us to investigate. The cubs were young; no more than 8 months old. To see three cubs in a litter is special, as most polar bear litters are only two (three happens ~15% of the time). When the family group approached closer, we could hear mom vocalizing with her cubs, using a low ‘chuff’, to which the cubs responded. This vocalization may have been to simply check in with the cubs and make sure they’re still okay, as the cubs swim directly behind mom to reduce drag and are not easy for her to see. We watched as she guided her cubs through the calm evening water back toward the ice edge. As both a polar bear scientist and a wildlife enthusiast, this viewing was such a treat, and something that I will not soon forget.

Nicholas Pilfold
Guide & Polar Bear Expert
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Applied Animal Ecology
Institute for Conservation Research
San Diego Zoo Global

Polar bear expert travelling in the ArcticNicholas is a lead ecologist with One Ocean Expeditions in the Canadian Arctic. With his primary focus on polar bears and ringed seals, he plays a vital role helping passengers identifying and educating Arctic wildlife. During his field studies in the Beaufort Sea, McClure Strait and Hudson Bay, his research examines trends in sea ice and climate in relation to biological responses of polar bears, including habitat selection, foraging ecology, and migration.

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