I seen him coming from the East, small in the binoculars, taking forever with his slow plodding, not wavering from the track he set. Closer I could see he was an old warrior, heavily scarred, patches of black skin showing through where thick underfur had been, the once great white coat now yellowed with age. I love these old bears, all banged up from a lifetime of struggle, living now mostly on wits and lessons learned, a face with character. He became weary of my presence the closer he got. I was parked along the coast and it looked to me that I was in his way.
He was still quite a ways off when he stopped. He just stood there looking, his tired eyes fixed on where I was. I watched him watching me, after an unreasonable length of time I got it; I started the camera buggy and put it in reverse and backed away from the old bears set track. He took another few minutes before he continued on his way eventually crossing where I was parked, passing without so much as a sideways glance.
The bear didn't get far. Along the coast a short distance from where I had been was a shallow bay, it was less than a bay, more an indent, an indent rimmed with stands of reddish dwarf willow, a break in the coast line where sea water, after a big tide, got trapped in a pool. This is where the old guy stopped, he found his spot; a small flat area on a raised hummock, partially hidden by the willows, close to the mouth of the break. From here he could rest and wait and watch. He knew this place, this was where he wanted to be.
The tidal waters of Hudson Bay and everywhere else in the world are influenced by the gravitational pull of the moon. Not wanting to get into the science behind all this I will just say when it is coming around to a full moon the tides are higher than normal. The mean high tide may be four meters, around the time of a full moon the tides' could reach 4.6 meters and if there is a strong north wind pushing the water ashore it will exceed this mark. On such an occasion the water will breach the tidal ridge and flood behind it. Depending on the severity of the storm the flooding can be quite extensive; more so in these low lying areas'. As it turned out the moon was soon to be full. The old bear's timing was good.
The day broke miserably, hard north wind, heavy overcast skies with driving rain. Not unusual weather for the end of October in these northern climes. With a full moon coming this was the perfect build-up to what could become a raging storm and as the day wore on it became obvious that was what we were going to get. For the second day the old bear stayed right where he first laid down, watching and waiting. I made the mistake of trying to get close to see what he was up to, he did not like this and moved away as I approached. I felt bad and moved back to a spot far enough away but close enough that I could see what was going on, if anything. In a short time he returned to his spot; the old guy didn't need me bothering him.
The coast was being battered by the wind and sea, highest tide of the month was on the rise, the moon was full. The wind rocked the camera buggy something fierce; sleep did not come easy if at all.
The storm blew itself out during the night, morning came and with the light I could see the extent of the flooding. The water had reached far inland and formed shallow lakes behind the tidal ridges. The old bear was at his spot , his little rise of earth was now almost an island. The mass of water that was forced inland was receding, finding its' way back to the sea following a falling tide. I caught the sudden movement out of the corner of my eye, a flash of white, a splash of water, the bear, with speed and a ferocity that you would not expect from a beat-up old man had a young seal by the back of the neck raised high out of the water. I could barely contain myself; I let out a big whoop, the old bear got one.
Every now and then during the rest of the day the bear would raise his head over top of the willows to look my way, the red on his snout looked out of place on such a regal face. Night came and in the morning the old guy was gone. The chance to get on the ground and have a look where the bear spent the last few days waiting and watching presented itself and so I did. No seal carcass, a smudge of blood on a rock was all I found. Looking from the his spot I could see that the huge body of water that was there after the big tide had, for the most part, drained back to the sea funnelled through the narrow break in the beach ridge. This break, now seen from a different angle, was further restricted by a line of large rocks extending from the edge of the break toward the center on each side. Anything caught in the large tide pool would be guided along by the rocks to the narrow opening to get back to the sea. Including seals. It was quite a revelation. My, my, the old guy had it all figured out right down to the high tide and full moon, it was all too slick to be coincidental. He knew of this place, there was no doubt that he had success here in the past.
You cannot underestimate the intelligence of the polar bear, the more I am around them the more I am amazed and convinced that their superior ingenuity will see them through the hardest of times. Their innate knowledge of the unique habitat they live in secures their future only if we as a species do our part not to screw it up........ Now I was thinking maybe the line of rocks were not natural at all....