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Written by Jody Steeves

If you haven’t stayed with us before at one of our lodges, we prepare for each excursion by scouting the landscape from the viewing tower. Checking the horizon from east to west, we look for animals on the beach ridges and tidal flats. On this particular day, we spotted a bear walking west along a ridge near the water’s edge.

Polar Bear at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar Bear at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge Photo by Jody Steeves

Our plan was to drive inland until we reached a spot well ahead of the bear, then we’d set up and wait for it to cross a creek in front of us. When we arrived at our spot the bear was still 800 metres away. The light was just starting to turn golden with the sunset and we hoped we’d get some great shots

When the bear was still 600 metres away, she dug a day bed into the sand and lay down. Hoping she’d continue on her path, we waited. After a while, with no movement from the bear, we decided to pack up and reposition.

That’s when Guide Jess suddenly pointed behind us.

A grey alpha Wolf from one of the coastal packs was trotting by, 60 meters away. He turned toward us and coming closer, he looked each of us over, as though trying to sniff out the weak member of our herd. Our cameras were clicking furiously. Then we watched as he continued on and disappeared off to the west; occasionally stopping to sniff tracks and mark his territory.

Wolf at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Photo by Jody Steeves

After the wolf disappeared from view we again started to pack up. That’s when we realized the bear was up from her rest and walking along the ridge toward us; 600m, 400m, 200 m… As she got closer the light just got better. Cameras clicked away, as she crossed the creek and continued past us, ambling onto another ridge where she found a sandy spot to lay down.

For the third time, we were started to pack up, that’s when we noticed the bear reacting to something we couldn’t see. She sat up, looked west and kept sniffing the air. Then she stood, turned to look behind her and then back to the west. The guides explained that she seemed to be looking for an exit route—but they weren’t sure why.

polarbear-BW at NNK_photo by Jody Steeves

Photo by Jody Steeves

That’s when we saw our wolf trotting down the ridge toward the bear. He had gotten to within 40 metres of the bear when she bolted, charging straight out toward the sea at top speed. The wolf took off after her and the two met each other on the flats.

Wolf and Polar Bear meet face to face an Nanuk Lodge

Photo by Jody Steeves

Moving our tripods so we could follow the action, we watched nervously as the wolf circled the bear. Then the wolf bowed down and made a playfully looking leap at the bear. The guide’s explained that the wolf was inviting the bear to play!

Repeatedly the wolf would trot up to the bear until they were nose to nose and then dart away—as though inviting her to chase him. Unfazed, the bear stood her ground, refusing to play. She only reacted when the wolf got too close for her liking. Finally, realizing the bear didn’t want to play the wolf gave up and trotted east.

Packing up after the unexpected encounter, we were all in a state of disbelief. As we headed back to the lodge, basking in the dreamy golden light, it almost felt like the playful engagement on the beach had been a fantastical dream. Fortunately, we had the pictures to prove it was real.

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