Shooting Polar Bears to Help Save Them

Shooting Polar Bears to Help Save Them

Alisa Opar
Published: 06/23/2010

At first glance this could be a scene from a BBC nature spectacular, a polar bear snoozing on sea ice in the blueish twilight of an Arctic spring—late April. Then you spot the tranquilizer dart in the animal’s neck and realize that the bear has a small role in a drama whose last act might well be the extinction of its species in the wild, Les Line wrote about this image in Audubon's May-June issue.

More about the photo:

Jeff Hutchens, who took this dazzling photograph several miles from Kaktovik, Alaska, on ice in minus-20-degree cold, relates that the bear, a subadult male perhaps two or three years old, was darted from a helicopter window by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Steven Amstrup. “Spotting white bears on white snow and ice is pretty tricky,” Hutchens says, “so scientists look for their tracks. The animal was smaller than I expected and definitely not your soft and warm teddy bear, for its fur was frozen into clumps and full of sharp ice.” He adds, “Sometimes people ask when they see the picture if the polar bear is dead, and I point out that you can see where its breath melted the snow right in front of its nose."

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