Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Polar Bear in the Cotton

I am ashamed of myself for not posting this photo earlier. It is one of my favorites. I took this back in 2004 I think, in September. One of our functions as security is to monitor bear activity and report to the feds. We are also all trained and certified by the Department of Wildlife to haze both brown and polar bears on the Prudhoe Bay oil field. By hazing I don’t mean getting them drunk and making them pick up marshmallows with their butt cheeks. By hazing I mean making them change direction by honking a horn, a short blast on the siren and at times cracker shells. These are launched in the direction of the bears from a shotgun and a small explosion occurs letting them know they need to go the other way. This is a last resort especially with the polar bear. As a rule they will visit the field and just rest in a location for a day or two then move on usually back to thee ocean. For all of us that have been assigned to sit and keep an eye on polar bears, I can tell you it is a privilege to see these beautiful creatures up close, (but not too close) in their natural surroundings. The oil companies go to great lengths to avoid disturbing them. An example would be the ice roads that are built every winter cannot be within a one mile distance of a den containing a female bear and her cubs. The pregnant female dens in the winter on shore to give birth.
The bear is the photo was a female approximately three years old. Most likely just kicked out on her own by her mother. I was observing this bear and while doing so, I was listening to Bruce Hornsby’s CD, Halacon Days,” which had just been released. The music was great and I sent a note with the photo to his web site and explained the circumstances. I never thought I would hear back from him but I received a note via e-mail, “I didn’t know I was writing polar bear sound track music, but I love it!” The photo and our exchanged was on the front page of his web site for a year. A short time after this happened I saw Bruce in concert in Baltimore, while taking a vacation on the east coast.