A WWF-led research team, a Canon photographer, and crew are traveling to Siberia’s Arctic coast on the Laptev Sea, to help solve a scientific mystery. The Laptev Linkages expedition is sponsored by Canon.
We have been watching the walrus haulout for days, and so far two polar bears have passed by. To collect genetic samples, we had to carefully sneak up on the haulout without frightening the herd. Now we have an opportunity to see how polar bears do it.
In larger walrus herds, bears may deliberately scare walruses into a stampede. Those in a hurry run over their weaker compatriots, and with little effort on the bear’s part, dinner is ready. But here on the spit, there are too few walruses to implement a strategy of mass chaos.
Today, another polar bear turned up and slowly approached the walruses, who bundled together. Young calves and mothers went straight into the water, while the large males barely moved. But they did keep an eye on the bear.
The bear tried to get between the water edge and the walruses, but failed. Instead, it used another strategy: laying down by the water below the walruses, and waiting for a small calf to come up on the beach. You could see that the bear was not sleeping, just pretending.
The walruses were wary. For an hour, none came close to the “sleeping” predator. The bear gave up and moved on, 100 metres away from the walruses. What happened in the end, we do not know.
We are now off to Cape Tsvetkova – the largest known walrus haulout on Taimyr: