Exuberant and adorable polar bear cubs have been snapped playing in the snow with their mothers in a series of breathtaking new images.
Wildlife photographer Isabel Jauss, from Hamburg, Germany, followed several families of polar bears for weeks to capture the pics featuring the cuddly critters and their fierce mamas.
The cute cubs can be seen clambering all over their mothers as they frolic together in the snow, while other cubs snuggled up into their mom’s warm fur coat as she lay down to rest.
Isabel took the incredible images at various locations around the Arctic circle, including Wapusk National Park and Baffin Island in Canada, as well as the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, but did not specify where each image was taken.
She even managed to capture a family of what appear to be triplets – a rare occurrence as most polar bear litters typically feature one or two cubs.
‘The polar bear is one of my favorite animals,’ said Isabel.
‘When I saw the rare triplets, I couldn’t believe my luck. They were just playing with their mother.
‘I learned where I might find a mum and her cubs leaving their dens, so I got myself a warm coat, some solid boots, and went up there in the Arctic climate.’
Like other predators at the top of the food chain, polar bears have a low reproductive rate. One or two cubs are born in midwinter and stay with their mother for two years.
Consequently, females breed only every three years, and the bears don’t reproduce until they are five or six years old.
Isabel’s shots of each polar bear family are stunning – but her snaps of polar bear triplets are particularly impressive given how rare it is for a mother to give birth to three babies at once.
Majestic, increasingly hungry and at risk of disappearing, the polar bear is dependent on something melting away on our warming planet: sea ice.
In the harsh and unforgiving Arctic, where frigid cold is not just a way of life but a necessity, the polar bear stands out.
But where it lives, where it hunts, where it eats – it’s disappearing underfoot during the summertime.
‘They have just always been a revered species by people, going back hundreds and hundreds of years,’ said longtime government polar bear researcher Steve Amstrup, now chief scientist for Polar Bear International.
‘There´s just something special about polar bears.’
Scientists and advocates point to polar bears, marked as ‘threatened’ on the ᴇɴᴅᴀɴԍᴇʀed species list, as the white-hot warning signal for the rest of the planet – ‘the canary in the cryosphere.’
Twila Moon, a National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist, said: ‘It’s near impossible for us to see a place where we don´t reach an essentially sea ice-free Arctic, even if we´re able to do the work to create much, much lower emissions’ of heat-trapping gases.’
‘Sea ice is one of those things that we´ll see reach some pretty devastating lows along that path. And we can already see those influences for polar bears.’