Mother Polar Bear and Cubs, Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is a large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi). A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (772–1,543 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. Although it is the sister species of the brown bear,it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time at sea. Their scientific name means “maritime bear”, and derives from this fact. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present.

The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the nineteen polar bear subpopulations in decline. For decades, large scale hunting raised international concern for the future of the species but populations rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arctic indigenous peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures.

Wapusk National Park is Canada’s 37th national park, established in 1996. The park is located in the Hudson Plains ecozone, 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Churchill in north-east Manitoba, Canada, on the shores of Hudson Bay. Access to the park is limited due to its remote location and an effort to preserve the park. The name comes from the Cree word for polar bear (wâpask).The Park is also home to Cape Churchill, which is renowned as the best location in the world to view and photograph wild polar bears. The only way people can access Cape Churchill is by helicopter or Tundra Buggy.

The park was the subject of a short film in 2011’s National Parks Project, directed by Hubert Davis and scored by Kathleen Edwards, Matt Mays and Sam Roberts.

Mother Polar Bear and Cubs, Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada

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