Starving Polar Bear Family

Posted Dec. 3rd, 2010 by Daniel J. Cox

Starving Polar Bear Family

This blog post was taken from my field journal where I described seeing a starving polar bear family during my time at Cape Churchill. Nobody can say for sure why this happened but more than one scientist I work with, at Polar Bears International, feel  it may be the first signs of polar bears being effected by Climate Change. These photos and video are part of the Arctic Documentary Project (ADP). Read more about the ADP and find out how you can DONATE to help fund Polar Bears International’s efforts to educate the world about how climate change will effect polar bears and all living creatures.

Field Journal Entry

The following entry is from my field journal originally posted under the title, “Another Season of Cape Churchill Polar Bear  Photography”

The days beautiful light was tempered by a scene I will never forget. Earlier this week we saw a mother bear with two little cubs. All three were extremely skinny, bones protruding from the hide of the gaunt and sickly looking adult. The cubs looked equally at risk. It was a horrible sight but it got worse. The next day we found the mother lying in a snow bank taking refuge from the wind as best she could. She was very close to camp and showed no concern for the buggy as we slowly approached to get a better look. At first none of us had any idea it was the mother and her cubs we saw the day before but as another bear came by she rose from her bed of drifted  snow and charged as best she could. It was obvious this mother and her cubs were in exceptionally poor condition. Though we so far have no proof it looked as though all three were on the verge of starvation.

Starving polar bear family, starvation, climate change, global warming, death, dyeing

A very malnourished mother polar bear tries to take refuge from howling winds with her two cubs. the visible cub is in the throws of death, eventually succumbing shortly after this photo was taken most likely due to starvation.

As the mother came back to guard her cubs, each poked their heads above the frigid ridge of icy snow. Mother tried desperately to get comfortable as she hunkered down to escape the blowing wind. She would extend one leg forward, then the next, lowering her body to retract her form. As soon as she were down back up she would raise, lifting one paw then the other. Curling up on one elbow, rolling over to the other. Back and forth she worked, trying desperately to find some sort of comfort in a land that knows no such word. Each attempt found zero solace and her discomfort was painfully obvious.

During our time watching this family of bears fight for survival, one of the cubs twice sat up. At first it looked like normal curiously but as he scanned beyond their wintery bed his little head developed an obviously abnormal tick. Without warning his body seized in a fit of violent convulsions. The first was not as bad as the second. The second was so intense it seemed impossible he could have lived. It was one of the most horrific scenes I have ever witnessed in the world of nature and one that scientists predict will repeat itself much more frequently as Hudson Bay freezes later and later each winter season. This incredibly beautiful, magnificent little animal was slowly dieing and all who had witnessed it were moved beyond words. Time passed and his little head moved ever so slightly. He was still alive but we all wondered for how long he could hang on. The sun had set and it was time to return to the lodge. The next day would tell the story more completely and we would have to wait to see mother nature take its course. We were hoping for the best.

Add Your Voice!
There are 86 comments on this post…
  1. IsabelleOn Feb. 9th, 2014

    My question is, What percent of polar bear cubs die in the first year?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 16th, 2014

      Isabelle, below is a direct quote to your question about cub mortality from Polar Bear International’s Sr. Scientist Dr. Steven Amstrup.

      “Under historic conditions where sea ice conditions were good, cub survival exceeded 60%. But, with the continuing decline in sea ice habitat, annual survival of cubs has dropped to less than half of historic values and even lower in some years.”

  2. SMOn Jul. 30th, 2013

    Thanks for telling the story – a first hand account of the problems Polar Bears are facing (albeit my post is a little late!).

    Read some of the comments and note that a lot of them ask if the bears could be fed until the ice forms. I was dismayed at the few comments that rubbished this idea. All I can say is that saving some is better than sitting on one’s bum, getting all mightier than thou, do nothing, and saving none. Even more so bearing in mind that we are the cause of the decline in bear populations. I see nothing wrong in addressing the imbalance. If it costs so much, so what? What price does anyone put on species extinction?

  3. Donna HamdanOn Nov. 3rd, 2011

    All the reasoning, facts and figures,experts opinions etc is doing nothing to change what I feel. For me watching a living creature die in agony is not right.
    We let them die now and in a few years time we will be trying to breed them in captivity to stop them being extinct.

  4. Bill McIntyreOn Jul. 30th, 2011

    Everybody who has commented suggesting the videographer should have fed these bears just DOESN’T have a clue. You CAN’T feed all the polar bears that are starving. To try to do so you would have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles and carry TONS of seal meat all that distance.

    There is no way that would be possible. And as pointed out here:

    if you tried to feed the bears then that would cause it’s own set of problems like black bears becoming addicted to handouts from people at parks and garbage cans, etc.

    It might be possible to feed one or two bears – but there are HUNDREDS DYING!

    And for all of you saying “Why doesn’t somebody do something to help those bears?” Well the person who took this video and posted it is TRYING to do something. He is TRYING to educate you to the REAL CAUSE of the problem. You can’t just make a useless attempt to treat a symptom of the problem without dealing with the SOURCE of the problem.

    And the source of the problem is YOU if you own an SUV.

    YOU ARE KILLING THESE BEARS if you own a vehicle that gets less than 40 mpg!

    It’s called Global Warming and if you believe it is a myth then you have been brainwashed by the public relations campaign of the big oil companies.

    Global Warming is killing these bears and every one of us is causing some harm to the planet – it’s just some of us are causing more harm than others.

    What did you do yesterday to try to reduce your “carbon footprint”?

  5. Vicki LunaOn Mar. 22nd, 2011

    I didn’t dare to watch the video, it will just destroyed me. Daniel you are doing an excellent JOB! keeping everybody alert of what is going on with global warming. I was very naive of what a horrific damage we are doing until I watch a documentary on tv about the POLAR BEARS and global warming this Feb 2011, and now I’m trying to help as much as I can in every aspect. People need to know more about these horrific situations, I wish there was “MORE” documentary done in TV, Advertising and teaching in Schools.

  6. Yinghua ZhangOn Mar. 8th, 2011

    The point of a documentary people, is to not intervene and let nature take its course. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be this dcumentary. While many of you are complaining that the filmmakers didn’t feed the bears, this point of this video is to show the world what is happening to polar bears which is entirely our doing. Feeding polar bears will do NOTHING for them in the long run. The biggest threats to polar bears are greenhouse gas emissions and oil development, for these are both reducing sea ice habitat and disturbing their habitat. Reduce these, and you can actually do something for polar bears in the long run. People are so addicted to short term solutions, but you really need to know the root of these problems and doing something about it NOW. Thank you for this documentary.

  7. coolrbreezeOn Feb. 13th, 2011

    You lost my support! What is the point of sending money–so you can film the animals dying???? What a farce!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Feb. 14th, 2011

      Interesting, I don’t recall ever receiving any support from you Coolbreeze.

  8. liteheartedOn Feb. 10th, 2011

    Seeing this in person must have been deeply disturbing. Sharing this with the world, you would have anticipated that it would stir peoples emotions and it would upset many. I hope there isn’t a “next time”, but what you could have done differently is to mention in the main article:
    1. Whether you tried to contact the Park Rangers to come and euthanize the bears to end their suffering? Too much damage had been done, and feeding the bears would not be enough to rehabilitate them. It is unlikely that the extensive damage could be reversed. But their suffering could have come to an end much sooner by those in the official capacity to do so.
    2. If the bears had not been in such a bad state and help could have made a difference (a) is there a wildlife organization that you could have called for help? (b) if so, would you have placed the call?
    3. What is being done long term to help the polar bears? It seems that if Churchill is no longer a good place for the bears to raise their cubs due to climate change, are we to sit by while it takes generations of bears starving before they figure out they have to abandon Churchill and move north, or can something be done to start relocating them now?
    If you are going to post the plight of the polar bears, then you can take it a step further and educate people as to what is being done and what can be done with more support and give them the links to follow to get more information. Otherwise, you are just flaming the fire and then acting surprised when you get burned. People in general need to start treating one another with more respect and stop calling each other stupid and laying blame. How are we supposed to help the animals, when we can’t even treat our own species decently? Think about it. There is suffering all around us. Male, Female, Old, Young. We waste a lot of energy and resources. If we could all just focus, and work together to do the right thing, we could make a better world for all – including animals. More transparency and cooperation is required. Let’s end the bickering and work side by side. People do care, but we need leadership. Guilt trips are not the answer. Useful information is. If everything on the shelf announced the carbon footprint, don’t you think people would be inspired to choose the product with the least carbon footprint? But the focus is still on making money, rather than improving lives. Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs, prime example, how many were sold the world over, guilting people into buying them and in some cases with apartment buildings, forcing people to have them, and now they are being phased out because they contain mercury. LED Bulbs have been around a long time and are much more energy efficient and do not contain mercury. But the corporations and the government did not throw their support behind LEDs to make it more widely available and economical, instead, they pushed the CFLs. That’s at least five years of wasted money, energy and resources. Let’s see, everyone pursue their own agenda, or we as people/companies/governments collectively decide the priorities and ALL devote some time and effort and resources to achieving these goals, what couldn’t we accomplish?! It’s time everyone is held accountable, not just the regular joe. I’m tired of getting jerked around and people pushing my buttons. We all want the same thing, don’t we? World peace, a comfortable life, companionship, happy and healthy children, everyone and every being treated respectfully and humanely. Is this too much to ask?

  9. FredOn Feb. 10th, 2011

    As heartrending as this might be, there is no evidence provided that specifies cause of death. Bears die for many reasons, including disease. It might have been starvation due to ecological collapse, but there is no reason to think it is. The observation that the intruding bear seems to be perfectly okay suggests that there is nothing systemic about inability of bears in that area to feed themselves. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of things that might be done to increase polar bear populations. But unless the discussion is informed by facts, there is no reason to believe that the right things will be done, even by the best intentioned people.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Feb. 10th, 2011

      Yes it is true, we collected no specific proof nor ability to collect these cubs and perform a necropsy to obtain that proof. However, if you read the current scientific literature from the worlds leading authorities on polar bears they have predicted this situation as well as increased infanticide in the Western Hudson Bay population. Circumstantial? Maybe. Predicted? Definitely.

  10. Portrait of Jane Jacobson

    Jane JacobsonOn Feb. 2nd, 2011

    If you watched the video,you would see that the mother as weak as she was tried to drive off the intruding bear.She would lay down her life for those cubs.
    As the bears wait for the ice to form,..which it is not as it used to be…they are starving,and as hard as it is to watch,it is the survival of the fittest.
    The shores of Hudson Bay are a gathering place for the bears to migrate once the ice forms.There will be more hungry suffering bears than the ones you see.
    Male bears will dominate, and the mother must protect the cubs from them as well as trying to survive.There is cannibalism.
    Churchill is the only place I believe,in the world where the cubs are released to fend on their own after two years.
    This was because of the previous abundant food supplies of seal in this area.But even that is changing.
    Had the photographer intervened,the mother would have likely attacked.It is also illegal,and with penalty to feed a bear.
    I lived in Churchill for over three decades,and after the military left,there was a people bear problem because the bears had become accustomed to eating at the military “dump” out side of town while waiting for the ice to form.That is why there is a “bear jail” even today.
    There was many a time when the bears, and the people, were walking down the same street. Bears in my back yard, on my step..wherever I wanted to be.Would you like to live like this?
    Is this the suggestion many of you are making when you say feed the bears?
    Do you know how many bears you would have to feed?Do you know the problems it would cause for people and the bears?Do you honestly think you can do that forever?and at whose effort,and whose cost?
    I am grieved by the video but it is truth! Bless Daniel for having the courage to document and expose what is really going on.I don’t think if he had a sandwich that day would have spared any bear from the cruel reality of what is happening.They still had to wait for the ice.
    There’s an old saying.”put your money where your mouth is!”
    That’s what it takes to change things these days.Support Polar bears International! Support the new facility for the polar bears being built in Winnipeg! Support other good causes. Write letters to your governments!And hope that this video did some good to change things other than to reap condemnation on the photographer who had the courage to expose something that was not pretty,and upset you.

  11. marenOn Jan. 27th, 2011

    Laws are meant to be broken; especially when it would save a life as a one-time exception. Feeding a bear is not going to make ALL bears dependent on humans overnight and unable to hunt for themselves anymore. And I agree with Barbara–global warming will not be reversed in time to save them now, so we should step in.

  12. Jo-Ann HarrisOn Jan. 19th, 2011

    Thank-you Daniel for the video.
    I’m glad to see that it has sparked such debate about the plight of our Canadian Polar Bears in Churchill and the same inevitable outcome for other Polar Bear populations in the arctic hemisphere.
    But my question still stands: Is there an action plan being put in place and/or in action to help Polar Bears under these extreme circumstances?
    By that, I do not mean feeding them, which is a band-aid solution and totally illogical, I mean an action plan to help rehabilitate such extreme cases of malnutrition.
    If you have already answered me on your blog, then I apologize. I have not been on the site since I first viewed the video, not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t. This has stayed with me since the first viewing.
    I am grateful for your candor, determination, and courage to show the world what our arrogance and ignorance is doing to our wildlife in the north and all over this wonderful planet. It is up to us to LOUDLY VOICE our concerns to our elected officials and governments with the same vigor and spit so many of us have shown you, an innocent documentary reporter doing his job reporting the reality of our apathy towards nature and the consequences of our in-actions.
    Keep up the good work. Without dedicated people like you, we would still be in the dark about the plight of our native Polar Bears.
    Best regards,
    Jo-Ann Harris

  13. MarisolOn Jan. 19th, 2011

    Why not to star a program to save them?? Like a shelter?? Or program to bring them food….
    I’m sure people around, animal lovers like myself would donate money to keep them alive….There has to abe a way…
    And please don’t make this videos anymore…because I can’t believe nobody even tryed to do anything…

  14. MarisolOn Jan. 19th, 2011

    I can’t believe that the people filming didn’t do anything…How can you just sit there to watch them die??

  15. BrendaOn Jan. 17th, 2011

    I admit, I couldn’t watch the video, but I have read all of the posts, and while I understand the sadness and anger of what happened to the bears, I am really surprised that the posters who are angry with Dan for documenting nature, don’t do a little research of their own.(it’s easy with the internet) I have heard many stories of people witnessing animal deaths in National Parks, and to my knowledge people watching as a wolf pack surrounds and takes down an Elk..after 3 days of wearing it down by trapping it in a pond) the people in attendance knew WHY they couldn’t and shouldn’t help.. the wolves worked hard for, deserved and NEEDED the Elk for survival… who is to decide which is more important to save.. Elk or Wolf? Research…. read… educate yourself to the issue, don’t just watch a sad video and post a nasty response, It just shows your lack of understanding… and rather mean nature. Don’t you think Dan suffered while watching as well, it is apparent in his work that he LOVES polar bears? My goodness people, do a little reading… THEN post, and for gosh sakes, please compare apples to apples… not helping a human in an accident is NOT THE SAME as watching Nature take it’s course in the wild… sheesh.

  16. Barbara SMOLINSKIOn Jan. 2nd, 2011

    How in the name of God can helping a animal of any kind be a CRIME. Yes it is a crime to witness a creature dying and do nothing. The law is wrong and needs to be changed. I agree that there are animals starving everywhere but SOMEONE,SOMEWHERE must take steps to help them. Even if you only save 2 or 3 right then and there at least they were saved. Global warming cannot be reversed quickly enough (if it can be reversed) to save these animals, so what is the answer? If we feed game animals for the hunter’s to kill, why not feed the animals who cannot find food on their own.I wonder how long human’s will survive when the animals that shared this planet since time began, are no longer here with us.

  17. Tim FremanOn Dec. 23rd, 2010

    This has truly been one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. That’s right, read. Watching the video was sad, but nothing compares to these utterly foolish comments. The canary in the coal mine is dying, all these people just want to toss a few seed at the bird! Nothing would have saved these these bears. Do you really think that after a seizure, then a snack, they would have been ready to swim and hunt seals in zero degree, open water? However, it is not too later for the entire species (and thousands of others). Yet people are busy emotional lashing out at the messenger over their own repressed guilt.

    We know the problem, the cause, and the solution. We’ve know all this since the ’70s. With each passing decade, these matters become more clear. yet we do almost next to nothing. The canaries in the coal mines, large and small, fuzzy and slimy, are dying all around the global. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! What do they all have in common? They are all rapidly dying out. Toss a bear a fish, and she eats for a day, stop destruction of the global and the entire species might live to fish for decades.

  18. Mandy JohnsonOn Dec. 23rd, 2010

    This is terrible! How could you not kill a baby seal to feed a baby bear!

    It doesn’t matter that feeding bears is ecologically unsound and hugely unsustainable! It doesn’t matter that those bears were so skinny and sick that feed them would have just prolonged their suffering–you had to try! It doesn’t matter that larger, healthier bears were in the area; if that near death mother couldn’t chase off a grown and equally hungry bear trying to steal food, you could have shot the raiders!

  19. Patrice JohnsonOn Dec. 22nd, 2010

    After years of donating and ‘adopting’ at conservatiom organizations, I find it UNBELIEABLE that no aid was rendered to this starving polar bear mom and her starving cubs! To me, it is like witnessing a car accident and not stopping to offer help! This IS inhumane especially as the polar bear is listed as threatened. And, I’D have no problem breaking a law so stupid that would prevent rendering aid to a starving polar bear family!

  20. DawnOn Dec. 21st, 2010

    Words escape me at the outrage I feel towards this video and for the laws in place which wouldn’t allow people to help these bears. Obviously it’s not just global warming killing off our beautiful species, or hunters/poachers, but litigation and laws.

  21. sunny k.On Dec. 19th, 2010

    This is realy SAD! I creid by watching this video! It really is sad how skinny mother polar bear is. She and baby polar must been starved for couple weeks or months! MOst of all, it really hurt my feeling and it reeally was heart breaking watching baby polar dieing!! My tear wouldn’t stop!!! This is all because of global warning!! Nothing is improving for polar bears!! They lost so many thing from this year!! Their shelter,foods and themself!

  22. Marie GilmanOn Dec. 19th, 2010

    Please catch some seals from an overpopulated area and drop them from seaplanes at strategic point. What would it matter if the bears became habituated to getting their food this way? It’s better than extinction. Nobody wants to lose these wonderful creatures. If we can manage to stop the sealers from slaughtering the babies there will be enough seals for the bears. That’s nature’s way and it should be reinstated for them to control, not us.

  23. Kim FrohlingerOn Dec. 19th, 2010

    Why can’t someone airlift food to these poor creatures? Culls are done every day; there are also slaughterhouse discards, restaurant and supermarket waste; roadkill. We need to do something to feed them and there is an abundance of food in the US and Canada that is not usable by or for humans so I don’t have to be told about the homeless and hungry children. These bears suffering was immense and there are more to follow if we humans don’t intervene. It is not a case of “nature” being left alone, we created this travesty a are obligated to help until long term solutions are found.

  24. BriannaOn Dec. 18th, 2010

    I dont understand how you can stand there and watch that poor cub go through that. Why didnt you help them? This breaks my heart, but if we dont do something about our behavoirs this will not stop. It discutusts me how we humans know what we are doing to these animals but still we are not changing. Thank you for this video it really gave a wake up call.
    Thanks again.

  25. WarrenOn Dec. 17th, 2010

    It’s sometimes hard to watch Mother Natures best course of action. If we feed these animals two things will happen. They will become partially or wholly dependent on humans for food, and they will compete with other bears for food and go on to reproduce when they aren’t the survivors they should be. It’s how evolution keeps the DNA strong. Their carcasses will feed the scavengers and while one part of the ecosystem is harder to survive, another will pick up the slack. Make no mistake about it, human CO2 and particulate emissions are affecting the atmosphere. We need to change the way we do our business.

  26. Portrait of Joel Kleiner

    Joel KleinerOn Dec. 16th, 2010

    Wow, this was one of the most moving videos I have ever watched. I had seen some of your photos of the baby polar bear passing away on the presentation you gave us last year in Florida. But watching this video was as troubling as any animal tragedy I have ever seen. It is great, and very special that you bring this out to show and present to the world, it has to be brought to everyone’s attention how these great creatures are losing their habitat. The images are etched in my mind!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Dec. 17th, 2010

      Joel, the images of the deceased polar bear you refer to in a presentation I gave actually took place back in 1996. This is a whole different event. Just thought I would clarify. Thanks for the kind words. It was difficult to document. I’m just hopeful it does some good.

  27. TabithaOn Dec. 16th, 2010

    Glad you left this article as well. Just wanted to let you know that someone else supports your efforts. Like some others have posted don’t shoot the messenger. If the posters who blasted you had read everything they would understand that your hands were tied and you were suffering with the bears as you watched. If you had fed and gotten charged, possibly losing your ability to go and film in that park, you would not be able to bring awareness to us who are ignorant of the damage that we are doing to our planet. Good job Daniel!! Keep up the good work. WE all need to take the blame for the bears demise.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Dec. 16th, 2010

      Tabitha, thank you for your kind, insightful words of encouragement. It’s nice to see there are those out there that do understand reality and express it in an adult manner. Everything you mention as to what could have happened, would have happened. Thanks again.

  28. Richard HowseOn Dec. 16th, 2010

    OK so what we we all need to do is not look at the mountain and say it is too big to move by myself so I’m not going to try. We can all take one very tiny step today that in our own measured lives we can afford. Daniel has given us some vivid motivation. Don’t bother crying because it doesn’t help the bears!

  29. LenoreOn Dec. 15th, 2010

    I debated whether or not to post a comment because I doubt what I have to say will make a difference to those convinced that you have done something terribly wrong. But then I decided that, for what it’s worth, I wanted you to know I support your decision for sharing this sad video with the world.

    I too am very upset by the situation you captured. I not only love wildlife, I respect it, and it cuts me deeply to see what is happening to the natural world. I also understand that after watching a video like yours, anyone who cares about wildlife is not only sad, but angry and wants someone to blame. Unfortunately, you are bearing the brunt of that misdirected blame.

    We humans are fantastic at band aid solutions, and although they don’t work in most situations (human or animal related) this has become the normal response and so it’s what is expected…in this case, food drops. Sadness and anger are powerful emotions and if channelled properly, can lead to real change. It’s too bad most of those who made negative comments about you and your character likely didn’t look in the mirror and ask themselves what they can do to make a difference to this horrible situation, since it’s us who have caused the degradation of our natural world; the one we all share. Instead of looking for someone else to blame so we can sleep better at night, we need to take responsibility for the damage we’ve caused and work together for a healthier planet to leave future generations – one that I hope will include polar bears.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Dec. 15th, 2010

      Max and Lenore,

      You certainly made my night. Just this morning I seriously considered removing the entire post. It occured to me to remove the entire thing as if it had never happened. But I decided not to. Had I done that I would be just as guilty of burying my head as those who have written blaming the messenger. It’s tough to constantly get beat up with little or no support. I’m grateful for your thoughtful comments. They’ve encouraged me to stick with it come what may. I’m hopefull the work I do with the Arctic Documentary Project will make a difference for the animals and the people of the north and in the end all of humanity.

  30. MaxOn Dec. 15th, 2010

    wow, i kept reading these comments, and more idiots are blaming the filmmakers for “letting them die”. Are you people stupid? It’s easy to sit there and say, “why dont you WALK UP TO A POLAR BEAR and feed it?!” its still a bear! these are filmmakers not Jack Hannah. They did their job, awareness. Now it’s up to you to make a difference. A lunch for a camera crew fed to a bear, would be like you eating a tic tac. People are so stupid and have gotten grossly off topic.

  31. MaxOn Dec. 15th, 2010

    It is not a filmmakers job to fix any social or natural problem. I can just as easily say to you “Why don’t you get off your computer chair, now that you’ve seen the video, and go feed them yourself?!? How can you just sit there, watching this video and go on with your day without helping these polar bears?” So stop pointing fingers at the people who filmmed this for us and gave us a better scope of what’s going on. Now you know. Doc. filmmakers aren’t millionaires. they’re not rolling around with 500 pounds of seal meat and a camera. Getting so off topic it’s disgusting!

    Great doc guys, keep up the awesome work.

  32. Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

    danieljcoxOn Dec. 15th, 2010

    Just for the record all posts have been approved. Even though in my opinion some are a bit off topic. At least the discussion is rolling. See the Guest Blog Post by Dr. Ian Stirling.

  33. Anna ClaraOn Dec. 15th, 2010

    Honestly, I think the most infuriating aspect of this isn’t the incredibly saddening and helpless death of the mother and cubs, but the complete denial of the people angrily berating the photographer for not feeding the bears. WE ARE THE CAUSE OF THIS PEOPLE! Not “that company” or “that nation” but you and me! Importing fish or carrying around steak for the starving bears is not going to resolve the issue! Only informed, engaged, active citizens who are screaming at their governments and their industries to change before it is truly too late to save ourselves and the current environment will ever make a change. expecting someone else to do it for you is simply ludicrous! In a way I am sorry for posting this, as I think it is almost too upsetting, but I feel like we have to truly come face-to-face with the consequences of our ignorance and lifestyle to become self-aware.

  34. Kathryn DalenbergOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    The best thing that could happen on the planet would be that the dangerous human species would become endangered.
    The polar bears in the video are in the terrible physical condition due to HUMAN’S damage and destruction of their environment. It is immoral and unethical to film them suffering and dieing and doing NOTHING to allieviate their
    suffering which is caused by our species. It is NOT “Nature taking its course” . . . that is bs. You should hang your head in shame for what you did NOT do for the bears.

  35. JasonOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    Polar bears and most wildlife being immediately impacted by climate change are well past the tipping point where driving electric cars, eating less meat and reducing your carbon foot print are going to save them. These things all need to be done yes…but, without human intervention we are going to lose these bears and countless other species. Its a shame that the very organizations that claim to be helping are also willing to use videos such as this as emotional marketing tools to tug at the heartstrings of potential donors. Humans made this mess, and humans are the only ones who can fix it. Freelance photographers braving the Artic cold to bring you the plight of the polar bear are no less responsible for the human attrocities that have brought this imbalance to nature than the wall street banker who drives a Hummer. Humans are the most ignorant and destructive species on the planet and we seem intent on taking everything else down with us.

  36. PolarbearOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    Daniel – why do you keep deleting comments you do not want to hear – i.e. critism of your inaction on that day/days ? ***** “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
    Martin Luther King, Jr. ***** Well – you HAVE looked the other way. Will you do it again next time, or will you learn ?

    • boothangOn Sep. 18th, 2014

      well I think polar bears need to die it good for them I hunt kill and eat polarbears so there for I don’t care

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 18th, 2014


      you mean if all polar bears were already dead and long gone, you wouldn’t miss being able to “hunt, kill and eat polar bears”? Come on, you don’t want them all to die, What fun would that be?:)

  37. elizabethOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    Why is it that people want to compare children and their suffering to the animals? Why can’t we just try and save these creatures and not feel we are doing something bad because we are doing this.

    I personally fight for both, but it is a known fact that children have more people fighting for them than these poor creatures. So since we are the ones who have caused this, and not only because of the environment, but because we seem to think that this earth belongs to us only. We are the ones killing them off so why not save them when you can?

    I will say it again, this was a crime in the eyes of most people who fight for God’s creatures. And not only are the bears having problems in Canada, but so are the seals! Let’s not forget that Canada kills so many baby seals a year, why would these bears have a chance there?

    We should be better than this…DO THE RIGHT THING!

  38. elizabethOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    I am totally shocked that you would not help save these bears? The idea that they are endangered and you and the others just stood there filming.

    This is down right disgusting and I can’t believe that no one helped. To watch these babies just die without any help well you and the others cannot care about animals.

    You will probably way that mother nature has to take its course, yet if that is true then we are not causing this to happen and yes nature does take these innocent lives. But you say we are causing this to happen…so why not save them from we humans? This is truly wrong that you let them die!

  39. AlbionOn Dec. 14th, 2010

    Sorry, Mr. Cox – but after read all this and your own justification for NOT assisting these animals in need (and I do not speak of doing it all the time – but this was an emergency) all I can say: there is nothing you can come forward with that does not sound pretty lame. If these had been humans you would have been fined for not assisting. I could never understand how people can sit and film animals being abused/murdered in front of their very eyes without stepping in and stopping it. Or at least try. It’s like coming upon a rape and getting one`s video camera out and filming it – rather than calling police and assisting the victim, as is OUR DUTY. As was yours when you were watching these cubs die – quite happily so, it seems. You had your footage (great!) and your text for the internet. People would be shocked into donating, and that is all that counts. It is beyond disgsuting. Sorry. Oh yes .. illegal under Canadian law .. bla bla. Well, we all know what is “legal” under Canadian law every spring, don`t we ? Laws that forbid assistance to an individual in need are not laws a Human with a conscience can and should heed. And no excuse.

  40. Andrew DerocherOn Dec. 13th, 2010

    The starving bears were in a National Park. Under the National Parks Wildlife
    Regulations ( it is illegal to “disturb, hold in captivity or destroy any wildlife within, or remove any wildlife from, a park” or to “touch or feed wildlife in a park”. If anyone had fed these bears, they would have committed a crime under Canadian law.

    It is not possible to link the death of these cubs directly to climate warming but everything we know about the ecology of polar bears suggests that this is the sort of event that we will see more often as the climate warms and the sea ice disappears. Usually such mortality events occur without humans seeing it.

    The issue of climate warming and polar bears was first published in a scientific paper in 1993. The scientific literature is very clear about the threat of global warming to polar bears. Cub survival in the Churchill area has been declining as the sea ice cover has decreased. This population has declined over 22% in recent years and is showing signs of still declining. The body condition of bears in the population has been declining for decades.

    If you want to blame someone for polar bears dying of starvation, try your political representatives and ask them what they have done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Closer to home, consider what you’re can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Nobody is blameless but the bears are paying the price. Sadly, this is only the beginning.

  41. PetraOn Dec. 12th, 2010

    This video is the sadest video of animals I have ever seen. Why was no action taken in saving these cubs and there mother!!! I know we must not interfer but come on seriously to film this and not do anything is so terrible. You say we must donate and do things to help these endangered animals then YOU and the organizations should start. You want our money and donate, for what, to supply you film and supplies to watch animals suffer. That makes no damn sense. Your out there then Help Them! Would of hurt to give those cubs some milk or the mother some food so they could survive alittle longer?

  42. Bruce AmsbaryOn Dec. 12th, 2010

    “We” (aka humans) can bring hay out to feed starving Elk and deer in the Lower-48, why can’t “we” be doing the same for these magnificent creatures?

  43. Julie DouglassOn Dec. 12th, 2010

    For all those upset people blaming the photographer for not feeding the bears, please remember all the starving bears, and other wildlife dying as a result of climate change. This is a ghastly sight to witness but we are ALL responsible. If you are upset then lobby your political representatives, try and make as much of an impression on them as the fossil fuel companies do, and aim for less than 2degrees C. increase in global temperatures, even if it causes you a little personal discomfort.

  44. TanyaOn Dec. 11th, 2010

    I grew up in Churchill and have spend every fall around the polar bears. I am really saddened to see cubs die or any bear but it REALLY is surprising the response from people “feed the bear”. It is a typical “North American” answer to the problem – put a band-aid on the situation. Every year we see cubs with their moms in this area that you know the cub will not survive once it gets out on that ice – this is not usual these days. This has been happening long before this video! Do people really think feeding those cubs, what, half a sandwich since you are in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE is going to fix the situation? Polar bears are an icon for the Arctic but also an icon for all creatures that are in crisis …whether you believe in global warming/climate change or not, in order to keep the quality of life as we know it we need to make changes. The world population is growing…we are running out of clean air, water and resources,…who thinks this is sustainable? The majority of the world doesn’t even remotely live as well as we do here in North America, what will it look like in even 20 years? Look at the bigger picture! Everyone is emotional about this video which is GOOD! Make some changes in your own lives rather than criticize those that are the messengers…you all see starving children in Africa and third world countries in disaster but turn your TV to another channel…you see commercial with the mother polar bear floating on the ice berg with her cub…Finally a dying cub gets peoples attention to take action! Help support the Rescue center for polar bears in Winnipeg, help support the research and education programs that Polar Bears International organizes – Dan donates his time year round to help with all of the above – how are you contributing?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Dec. 13th, 2010

      Just for the record, Tanya of post #31 is my wife and she does have her own voice. I’m grateful for her support and most everything I do would be less enjoyable without her.

  45. Kathleen SimmonsOn Dec. 11th, 2010

    Now that we have seen the video, and you have read all our comments, will this kind of thing be filmed again or will someone intervene? We know we cannot save all the animals, but it seems that something could have been done because the observation was that they seem to be starving.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Dec. 11th, 2010

      Kathleen, you may want to check out my response to the ongoing desire to feed polar bears. Yes, I have read all your comments and have allowed each and every one to be posted. It’s only fair that you can tell me that you’ve read the response I posted.

  46. Paulette KaplanOn Dec. 11th, 2010

    For gosh sake, give them food!!! At least try to help them. There has to be a way to that under these circumstances. This is something that could be done and should have been done.

  47. AnitaOn Dec. 11th, 2010

    It’s hard to say a word after watching the poor polar bear family. I don’t know whether it was right or not. That moment, the only choice was TO GIVE THEM FOOD. I can’t watch once more.

  48. Stacy AhmadOn Dec. 11th, 2010

    I too was brought to tears by this video, but come on people. You cannot start feeding all the bears. I don’t believe that having bears getting accustomed to hand feeding would be wise for the people of Churchill. I cried watching this poor little cub convulsing, and most likely dieing from his seizure. This is our fault, we humans are doing this to ALL the creatures of this planet, it’s not just the polar bears who are in trouble. Instead of writing hateful messages, we need to figure out how we can put an end to all of suffering that we cause to the creatures of the Earth.

  49. Marcia OylerOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    It hurt my soul to watch this. Food drops, tranquilizing darts and rehab of some sort so that the family could then be returned to the wild . We do it with other species. Why not a species that will in all probability not live out this century without our help?? Each life is precious here and these babies might have been saved. Certainly they had been observed before the day they died. Someone must have known they were in trouble. I’m so disappointed in this organization’s inaction.

  50. Barb GarrisonOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    I’ve seen this over and over again, the politics and verbal garbage that comes from organizations is more important than actually saving individuals from death. First thing I would do is intervene and save the bears you say you love so much, then appeal to the public. Filming bear cubs starve to death is self-serving, immoral, and unethical.

  51. Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

    danieljcoxOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    For my response to all the comments above please see the Blog/Corkboard entry
    Outpouring of Concerns for the Starving Polar Bear Family.

  52. Judith StottOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    This is truly awful to watch. I was in tears & my stomach was very upset. These poor animals have no idea what is happening to them & that is even sadder. The mother is obviously starving as well. & we did this. It’s our fault!

  53. AlanOn Dec. 10th, 2010


    Thanks for sharing this disturbing video, I just returned from Churchill with Chuck Jonkel and the Great Bear Foundation trip he leads up there every year. First went in 2008 to get a better understanding of the issues at hand and felt compelled to return again this year…. Magnificent animals and a dam shame to watch them suffering and an even worse shame to read the comments of others who call into question the issues at hand, I’ll never figure them out….

  54. Rita De FerraryOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    We would make every effort to save starving stray dogs in the street or domestic cats. I do it all the time. Why then not this polar bear and her cubs?! Is this an alien concept?

    With populations of polar bears declining due to our greed and destructive behavior, there should be programs which rescue them. They could have been rescued, food could have been brought in to feed them and save the cubs.
    Taking videos to alert their global population of this tragedy is NOT enough. We have a responsibility to them and we should make EVERY effort to help them directly. And I am personally disgusted at no one making an effort to take an active position to save them. They could have been darted…after or during the video and saved. Those who film these tragedies should align themselves with rescue groups who may assist in saving these creatures.
    Perhaps start with contacting Wayne Pacelle at the Humane Society of the United States.

    • SUESITAOn Jan. 31st, 2014

      If an animal is starving and near death, darting them may just finish them off. It is really hard on an animal to be paralyzed and the animal needs to be basically healthy.

  55. Esther RitchieOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    I know the researchers were there to document the conditions and the results of Global Warming on the Polar Bears, but I just cannot fathom how ANYONE could tape this video, and sit back and watch this happening and nnot get these bears SOMETHING TO EAT !!!!!!!!!! I know it’s survival of the fittest, but come on! These are babies with a malnourished mother…give them a break…I am deeply distrubed with the creator of this video, and don’t know how they consider themselves an animal lover!

  56. Kristina FedorovOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    Why didn’t you step in to help??? Give some food! We humans are already interfering, why not interfere for the good in this case? How heartless can you get?!!

  57. KimberlyOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    I do not know what bothers me more. The fact that you filmed the polar bear mother and her cubs suffering or that you did nothing to help them. You knew they were struggling as you went back to your warm lodge and filled your belly and you didn’t think to at least try to feed them? (a seal carcass maybe?) To use this video to pull at the heartstrings of people is disgusting. Maybe I am angry at the wrong person, but the fact that you watched and filmed and did nothing, not even for the cubs, makes you guilty of the deaths of these animals, in my eyes. Nature is cruel, I get that, but you made a video of these beautiful creatures suffering and dying and you did nothing. Whoring out this video shamelessly to get people to give money to an organization that can’t do anything to help; well, I’m sure you will have to answer for that eventually. Shame on you, Mr Cox, shame on you! (BTW, I turned the video off. I couldn’t watch past the first cub’s convulsion…it hurt my soul). I hope you put your “skills” to better use next time.

  58. Beas MukherjeeOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    pls help the polar bears to survive in this world.

  59. cindy rockOn Dec. 10th, 2010

    I understand you were upset in witnessing the demise of this family of starving bears. I would hope you will, in the future, carry food with you to leave for a bear you may find in this predicament. It would seem to me that food drops could be accomplished. If you are close enough to film this, you are close enough to do something about it.

  60. Krissi DOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    This was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a few very sad things in my lifetime. I cried so hard while I watched the video, and I felt utterly helpless. However, I did make sure to go over to Polar Bears International and adopt a bear. It was the very least I could do other than cutting my carbon footprint, which I’ve been working on for several years.

  61. Sandy GallagherOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    This has to be so hard to watch. Has the mother since gotten food? Or will she also probably die?
    I thought I had heard some of the bears are moving out of the area and going further south with other possiblities of food.

  62. SandraOn Dec. 9th, 2010


    I’m deeply saddened by this video and I would love to help. However I have a question: was there no way for you guys to try and save this little family? Provide them with some kind of dead animal or something..anything???
    I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but I really need to know
    Thank you

  63. Tracy CarlOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    I personaly am sickened after watching this polar bear video.Im all about saving animals,but lately I noticed alot of the animal organizations are themselves guilty of cruelty and neglegence. You filmed those starving babies for how many days?Where are donations going? On those big giant trucks, your camera equipment,all the people there “helping”.How about you use some of your donations to actualy save a bear by maybe FEEDING ONE that your watching and filming, a baby having convulsions. Maybe drop some food from a plane or something.Right now after crying watching that baby die and an animal rescue standing there watching and filming and doing nothing to save it. It makes me feel like your no better than dog fighters watching an animal suffer and doing nothing.Im sorry but thats how I feel right now. I will support your rescue efforts no longer.Your not the only one Im doing away with for the same reasons.You could have saved those babies,and Ill never forget that video and your involvment in it. Tracy Carl

  64. Marilyn FlynnOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    That should be looses, not loses, and one year should be hiphenated. Did you go to a Winipeg School? I am a graduate of St John’s High School, home of a record number of Rhoses scholars.

  65. Marilyn FlynnOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    So you sat there and watched this play out? Was there nothing you could do to prevent these deaths? You returned to the lodge? where you had something nourishing to eat, and were warm and dry, no doubt?

    I was born and grew up in Winnipeg and spent my summers at Victoria Beach on Lake Winnipeg, so you can understand how exercised I get about the plight of the polar bears.

  66. Jennifer Van BergenOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    I just wonder if there is any way to intervene in situations like this? Even if a bear doesn’t allow approach, can not food be left for her and her cubs? I realize this does not solve the underlying problem, but it’s a stopgap. I don’t believe it is enough to have polar bears declared endangered or even to have more protected habitat, if the underlying problem is global warming and loss of sea ice. Even if we reduce emissions to acceptable levels today, polar bears may still go extinct. Meantime, we must find ways to save them from extinction. Shouldn’t a rehabilitation program be developed and put into effect right now? This was done with black-footed ferrets, who were brought back from the brink of extinction.

  67. Yaedi IgnatowOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    Is it not feasible to literlly bring fish in to the bears to get them through until there is a total freeze? How much would that cost for the whole area?

  68. Jo-Ann HarrisOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    I watched the video and cried my eyes out while this little bundle of fur was literally dying before my eyes. I know nature can be quite cruel, but my question is:

    Your agency is out their to help and protect these magnificent animals. Wasn’t there something the agency could have done for the remaining cub and mother? Isn’t their some form of rescue sanctuary in Churchill for such cases? If not, then someone should seriously considered the startup operation for one.

    Every Polar Bear we loose…means they are that much closer to extinction. I for one, do not want to see this part of my natural heritage go by way of the DODO Bird. They are a legacy to cherish and to be loved by generations to come.

    I’m not an expert, but I do believe that the mother and cub needed most urgently was an intravenous solution to help combat the dehydration that was occurring.

    Best regards,
    Jo-Ann Harris
    Quebec, Canada

  69. virginiaOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    so why did not not give them food?????????????

  70. Rossi DudrickOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    Very sad. I cannot watch. Your words are enough to paint the grim picture.

  71. JudyOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    If you are trying to save the polar bears and they are endangered then why didn’t you use some of the money you get from supporters like us and feed these poor starving bears??? You would not have had to interact with them; just drop off food (seals or whatever)and give the mother a fighting chance to save herself and her babies. It breaks my heart that people can just sit and film this without helping. You would not just sit and watch a human mother and child starve to death without offering some help. I understand the term “nature taking its course” but in my opinion that would be for the ones we do not see dieing a horrific death and therefore we are unable to help.

  72. Judy MerrickOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    I am in tears after watching the film. It is so sad to see these magnificent bears suffering so deeply. The cubs had no chance at a life. I have been fighting for their protection for a long time and now this film makes that fight even more urgent. They deserve all the protection we can give them. Then we need to find a way to sustain them through the difficult months until we can see a reverse in the climate warming. I don’t want to see a world without polar bears. All of our wildlife needs our help.

  73. Rochelle WillisOn Dec. 9th, 2010

    If there were people close by, wouldn’t it have been possible to have provided some nourishment for these bears? This was truly one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen and . . . . God help the polar bears and all wildlife . . .

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