Polar bear cuddles dog – but incredible viral footage masks dark side (VIDEO)
The heartwarming footage was shot by mechanic and part-time tour guide David De Meulles as he was giving two visitors a tour in Manitoba, Canada over the weekend.
The fascinating clip, which quickly went viral, shows a huge polar bear hanging out with, and stroking, a placid sled dog. The powerful bear looks as if it could crush the dog with one swipe of its giant paw.
However, instead it simply pets its canine companion on the head in a delightfully friendly and gentle manner.
The dog, who is attached to a leash, soon tires of the attention and stands up to walk away. However this just tangles the bear in the dog’s chain. The serene bear doesn’t seem remotely bothered by this and just backs up to get out of the dog’s way.
“I had no idea what was going to happen, and then sure enough he started petting that dog, acted like he was a friend,” De Meulles told CBC. “I just so happened to catch the video of a lifetime.”
“I’ve known the bears to have somewhat friendly behavior with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing,” he continued. “It was a beautiful sight to see, and I just can’t believe an animal that big would show that kind of heart toward another animal.”
Polar bears are endangered in Manitoba, and just a little more than 900 of the giant predators live in the province. They are protected under Manitoba’s Wildlife Act, and the majority spend most of the year on sea ice in Hudson Bay, though they are forced inland as the ice melts.
As beautiful as the video of the bear and the dog appears on the surface, it hides a darker truth.
The sled dogs belong to Brian Ladoon, who has been raising them on his land for 40 years. It has emerged that conservation officers have been called to his property twice in the past week in order to remove polar bears. On one of these occasions, one of Ladoon’s dogs was actually killed by a bear.
"Conservation officers had to immobilize a bear in that area last week and move it to the holding facility because it killed one of his dogs," a spokesperson for Manitoba Sustainable Development told CBC News.
"A mother and cub were also removed because there were allegations the bears were being fed and the female’s behavior was becoming a concern."
As ice melts on Hudson Bay, many polar bears congregate close to Churchill, the town where Ladoon’s property lies. Bears who become accustomed to being fed by humans tend to range deeper into human territory which often results in them being killed out of concern for human safety.
Ladoon told the news channel that he has been feeding the polar bears – which is prohibited because it interferes with the bear’s natural behavior – and on the one night he didn’t feed them, the dog was killed.
"That was the only day we didn't feed the f--king bears, the only night we didn't put anything out," he said.
CBC also spoke to Ian Stirling of the University of Alberta, who studied wildlife in the Arctic for more than 40 years. Stirling warned that chaining a dog up where polar bears roam leaves the canines “totally vulnerable”.