It’s a sight wildlife photographer Daisy Gilardini was not expecting to capture; a polar bear cub hitching a ride on its mother’s rear.
In February 2015, Gilardini headed to Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba to photograph polar bears leaving the den for the first time in search of food.
Polar bears cubs usually spend the first couple of months of their lives in a den. Gilardini said mid-February is when seals start to give birth, so polar bear mothers and their newborns usually come out to eat, as the food is an easy catch for the hungry bears.
“It is extremely difficult and rare to witness the exit of the bears from the dens and one has to face extremely challenging conditions,” Gilardini said.
Gilardini spent a total of 117 hours waiting outside the den. The temperature was ranging from -45 C to -50 C with the wind chill, and the wind was gusting up to 60 to 70 km/h.
But her patience paid off.
Gilardini said she finally saw the four-month-old cubs leaving the den, and the two started playing around in the snow. When the mother got up to leave, one cub decided its paws were too tired and caught a ride.
“The mother rushed downhill in deep snow when one of the two cubs decided it was much more convenient to hitch a ride on mama’s butt,” Gilardini said.
“It jumped and reached out holding on with a firm bite on the fur,” she said. “An extremely funny and totally unexpected behaviour.”
Gilardini took the images 100 metres from the den, using a big photo lens. “They were very playful and performing for us all day,” Gilardini said.
Gilardini, who is a professional photographer based out of Vancouver, said she is heading back to the location in February to capture more photos of new cubs leaving their den. To see more of her wildlife photos, click here.