Polar bear cub hitches a ride

A British tourist visiting Svalbard made an uncommon observation and managed to take a picture of it; a polar bear cub riding on its mother's back.

Isbjørnunge rir på morens rygg

Photo: Angela Plumb

On the 21 July 2006, Mrs Angela Plumb, a tourist from the UK, was aboard a ship in the mouth of Duvefjorden at Nordaustlandet, north in the Svalbard archipelago. Mrs Plumb spotted the mother bear with a seven-month-old cub hitching a ride on her back - see the picture and read more about it in BBC Earth News.

Dr. Jon Aars, polar bear scientist at the Norwegian Polar Institute says the behaviour may not be as uncommon as the scientists have believed until now. And the explanation for the behaviour may be simple: "This could be potentially important because it means that the cubs get exposed to less water. If they are in the water they would have to swim and very small cubs are very badly insulated in water," he says.