Play time for young and old! Polar bears caught mucking about in the snow after a long hibernation


All aboard: A female polar bear and her cubs play in the snow in Canada after a long winter's rest in the den

Playfully clambering over their doting mother these polar bear cubs spring into action for the most sociable time of the year.
Across the polar regions from Norway to Canada these images show the intimate relationship between polar bear mothers and their young as they emerge from their winter hibernation.
Each winter females dig dens, where they give birth to their cubs - usually two, but sometimes as many as four.

Peekaboo: A cub takes shelter as it ventures out in Churchill, Canada

The timing of the birth is sometime during early winter, between December and January.
The snow den, the mother's body heat and her milk, which is high in fat content, enable the cubs to keep warm and grow rapidly before leaving the den in March or April. Short trips are made to and from the den for several days as the cubs get used to the outside temperatures. Then the family leaves and makes its way to the sea ice, where the mother teaches, hunts for and protects her cubs.

Gone fishing: Meanwhile in Norway a polar bear takes the plunge into icy waters in the hope of finding a bite to eat

After two years together, the family disperses and the cycle begins again.
But not before a bit of light play in the snow.
Photographer Steve Bloom has spent hundreds of hours in the Arctic regions, photographing the amazing interactions from lounging around in the snow to diving head first into the icy waters looking for food.

Taking the weight off its paws: A polar bear stretches out on the snow in Churchill, Canada

'The polar bear's presence is entirely transitory, with photography dependent on accurate timing, the right weather and exceptional luck,' said Steve.
'Imagine a world without polar bears.
'It seems unthinkable, yet as climate change gathers pace, the Arctic ice floes upon which the polar bear depends are beginning to break up.

Come here, you: Two polar bears nuzzle with each other in Churchill, Canada

'In the years ahead, this could be catastrophic for this truly charismatic bear which, when it stands up, is taller than the largest elephant.
'The irony is that the polar bear represents one of conservation's greatest successes: thanks to an international convention controlling the hunting of the species.'

Little attention-seeker: A bear and her cub in a snow-covered forest in Canada

Bear hug: A show of affection in Churchill, Canada

source: dailymail