by Paul Scriver, Churchill Wild Polar Bear Guide
Everybody needs friends. Even polar bears.
We saw quite a bit of playful sparring between male polar bears around Seal River Heritage Lodge in July, and this was earlier than usual. Generally the sparring begins when summer turns to fall, as the colder temperatures mean the bears are less likely to overheat, and the bears are closer to the end of their summer fast. Bonded pairs or groups are typically seen hanging out and sparring more in October and November.
Males will spend a fair bit of energy and time seeking out a sparring or a play fighting partner to hone their skills. This also helps them learn what fights to pick and which ones to avoid. During Birds, Bears and Belugas we saw bears playing and wrestling in the water, sparring onshore and hanging out together.
Food availability in the form of beluga carcasses, combined with a low level of stress on the bears, are probably a few of the reasons for these early season friendships, which makes us very happy for the bears, and for our guests!
A few weeks ago we awoke to these two guys playing in the water. They then moved up to the lodge and continued to spar in the fireweed. Like clockwork, as breakfast time rolled around, they decided to have a snooze. They courteously waited for us to finish another wonderful meal before continuing their mock battle, and finally, they drifted off together through the long summer grass…