The denning area at Wapusk is roughly 50km from the frozen sea ice....and it is this sea ice that the mother bear must take her cubs so she is able to hunt seal. The mother will have given birth around Christmas time, having not eaten since she came off the ice earlier in the year around June. So she hasn't had a really good meal in about 6 or 7 months and her milk and energy supplies are running dangerously low. And every new day, these cubs need more milk and adult supervision from mum.
At any rate, our group found this mum and two cubs early in the day where they were dug into a snow bank....resting and nursing. We watched them for a long time.....maybe 5 hours......as the sun slid towards the horizon and the temperature plunged. In fact, the temperature got to be about -50C....cold in anybodies book. And still the bears stayed in their day bed.
Just before sunset, the sun slid behind a band of clouds that typically hangs at the horizon in this area. Without light.....and freezing their booties off.....the other photographers packed up their gear and headed into the warmth of the van. Maybe because I was frozen solid and couldn't move....or maybe just because I was being obstinate.....I hung back and did not break down my gear just yet. And then a minor miracle occurred......at precisely the same time, the sun started shining through a tiny sliver of opening between the clouds and the horizon...and the mother started to move.
In fact, she left the day bed, followed by her two babies, walked down the small bank towards me, paraded her two cubs past me and then climbed that snow bank again. She paused at the top for one last look back.....the cubs played together for an instant....and then she was gone. But I got the shot!
My fingers were too frozen to even pack up my gear.....someone else did that for me. And it took about 30 very painful minutes to thaw my fingers and get them operational again. But it was definitely worth it.