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Manitoba polar bear picture wins grand prize, lands spot in Smithsonian

Mother polar bear cuddles with her cubs in Wapusk National Park in March, 2016. Video courtesy of: Daisy Gilardini

An adorable picture of a Manitoba polar bear cuddling her cubs is making a debut at the one of the largest museums in the world.

Vancouver photographer, Daisy Gilardini snapped the picture, titled Motherhood, in March 2016 near Churchill, Man. Out of more than 20,000 submissions, the picture was awarded the 2016 Grand Prize in an international photo contest and is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C for a year.

The picture shows a mother polar bear cradling her two cubs while resting her head upside down. The mother was on her way to hunt for seals on the Hudson Bay, and Gilardini was there to witness the three polar bears playing in the snow.

RELATED: Orphaned polar bear cub arrives at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Although she was 100 metres away, Gilardini said the polar bear was not threatened.

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“We kept our distance, and the mom was totally relaxed and looking at us,” Gilardini said. “The babies were playing right in front of us.”

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Gilardini spent five hours taking photos of the family, and said the weather dropped to -54 C while winds gusted up to 60 km/h.

“All the efforts are, however, well rewarded when you get to experience such intimacy with the most iconic animal of the Arctic kingdom,” she said.

Polar bear mother with cubs -  Wapusk National Park - Manitoba - Canada.
Polar bear mother with cubs - Wapusk National Park - Manitoba - Canada. Daisy Gilardini
Daisy Gilardini is an environmental photographer and conservationist from Vancouver, B.C.
Daisy Gilardini is an environmental photographer and conservationist from Vancouver, B.C. Daisy Gilardini

Leaving the winter den

Every February and March, polar bears in Wapusk National Park leave their winter dens with their cubs in search for food. The timing coincides with seals giving birth to their pups on the Hudson Bay pack ice, which means easy food for the polar bears.

It is extremely rare to witness the exit of the bears from their dens, Gilardini said.

This isn’t the photographer’s first time snapping a picture of a polar bear landed her fame.

In 2015, one of Gilardini’s photographs, called Hitching a Ride, was nominated for a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice award.

READ MORE: Polar bear cub hitches ride on its mom in northern Manitoba

“As environmental photographers, it is our duty to capture the beauty of places and species at risk and raise awareness through the universal power of imagery,” she said.

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