Polar bear cubs play on the thin ice that supposedly threatens them with extinction

This video tweet deserves a post of its own: two relatively inexperienced cubs-of-the-year in Russia deliberately break through thin ice, fall into the icy water and crawl back out – over and over again, for fun, as their mother watches in the background. Play is one way animals learn important survival lessons and for polar bears, this is one of them:

Thin ice was a natural component of the Arctic long before polar bears evolved to live there: it is nothing new but dealing with it requires a strategy that cubs must learn.


Here it is broken down as stills: one fat, Chukchi Sea cub deliberately pounces on the ice to break it:

Russian PB cubs deliberately break thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Both crawl out of the icy water:

Russian PB cubs struggle to get out of water surrounded by thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Both safely crawling over the thin ice:

Russian PB cubs crawl over thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Compare the above video to the photos and film clips below meant to frighten everyone (including small children) about the plight of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay, from the UK Mirror earlier this year (13 November 2019) “Exhausted polar bears cling to life on thawing ice as they face extinction: These are the desperate polar bears scrambling for survival on Arctic sea ice shrinking beneath their very paws as climate change takes its toll“:

Mirror photo pbs on thin ice_13 Nov 2019 James Breeden photo

“Polar bears are threatened with being wiped out by climate change” Mirror, 13 Nov 2019. James Breeden photo

Propaganda-style photo distributed by USGS, taken by US Coast Guard in August 2009:

On thin ice

Also from 2009, is a video from the BBC, called “Polar Bear on Thin Ice – Nature’s Great Events: The Great Melt – BBC One” (10 Feb 2009), which I believe was also used as fund-raising propaganda by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):

A 2015 pictorial in the Daily Mail (27 December) shows, through a sequence of photos taken by a crewmember of a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, how a big adult male in Alaska used the same strategy for dealing with thin ice as this year’s Russian cub:
2015 Beaufort Sea AK bear on thin ice Daily Mail photo example

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