Emailed images show a 1,200-pound polar bear playing with husky sled dogs in the sub-arctic wilderness of northern Canada.
True. These charming pictures were taken by renowned nature photographer Norbert Rosing, whose work has appeared in National Geographic and other magazines, as well as several books including The World of the Polar Bear (Firefly Books, 1996), in which Rosing recounts the story of how these particular photographs came to be taken.
The location was a kennel outside Churchill, Manitoba owned by dog breeder Brian Ladoon, who kept some 40 Canadian Eskimo sled dogs there when Rosing visited in 1992. A large polar bear showed up one day and took an unexpected interest in one of Ladoon's tethered dogs. The other dogs went crazy as the bear approached, Rosing says, but this one, named Hudson, "calmly stood his ground and began wagging his tail." To Rosing and Ladoon's surprise, the two "put aside their ancestral animus," gently touching noses and apparently trying to make friends.
Just then another large polar bear arrived and advanced toward one of Ladoon's other dogs, Barren. The latter rolled on his back, then the pair commenced playing "like two roughhousing kids," Rosing writes, tumbling around in the snow as he snapped pictures of the surreal encounter from the safety of his vehicle. The bear returned for more play sessions every afternoon for 10 days in a row.
The images found their way onto the Internet via a slide show, "Animals at Play," created by Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play. Unlike Brown, Rosing emphasizes the uniqueness of the encounter he witnessed, noting that polar bears and dogs are natural enemies and "99 percent of the bears behave quite aggressively toward dogs." Canadian wildlife expert Laury Brouzes theorizes that the polar bears' friendly behavior may have been a ploy to get a food handout from the dogs' owner.
Sources and further reading:
Rosing, Norbert. The World of the Polar Bear. Ontario: Firefly Books, 1996, pp. 128-133.
Norbert Rosing, Photographer
Animals at Play
Slide show by Stuart Brown