Several polar bears live in the vicinity of Ryrkaypiy, a settlement far in Russia’s north. One of them is a year-old cub whose mother was likely killed by poachers. Without help, the little bear is unlikely to survive on its own since it is unable to hunt yet.
“Usually, such cubs end up in a zoo, yet we saw a chance to keep the bear cub in its natural habitat,” Viktor Nikiforov, an expert with the Center for the Study of Marine Mammals, explained.
Fortunately, the location is also a summer ‘resort’ for walruses, and as the sea giants swim off for the wintertime, the coastline can become littered with carcasses of dead specimens.
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The polar bears feast on the remains of the deceased walruses, yet for the cub even scavenging might be a challenge. As temperatures drop, the carcasses become frozen solid and the young bear may be unable to gnaw on them.
Early in January, the young bear entered Ryrkaypiy in search for food and attacked a local dog. To save the cub from starvation – and the settlement from harassment – the rescue team headed out to the plains on snowmobiles.
They located dead walruses and “softened” them up with chainsaws, enabling the bear to eat on its own – without the need to wander to the settlement for food.
While it might be fun to go and feed a cuddly little polar bear, it’s bound to grow up into a fearsome predator. Such a “bond” between people and the animal could be fatal for both – grown-up bears could attack humans and end up being shot dead.
Young bears fed by humans won’t learn to hunt on their own and therefore cannot survive alone, meaning a zoo enclosure remains the only option for them.