FWS Images of Alaska’s Polar Bears, Walruses and Seals
Posted by Laurie Frost on June 27, 2009
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library isn’t all about polar bears and Alaska, but since polar bear is one of the search terms by way of which people land on this blog, and because it is just too hot these days, I decided that selections from its Arctic jpg’s would make a good introduction to the FWS as a source for public domain images.
But what we need to get our bearings is a map. Here’s one, an 1897 map from the Library of Congress entitled Millroy’s Map of Alaska and the Klondyke Gold Fields. If you visit the site, you can use the zoom feature.
If you look right below the tip of Siberia as it reaches into the Bering Strait, close to the Alaska-Russia border, you’ll see the island of St. Lawrence. This area is where Ellizabeth Labunski took the picture of the polar bear above. Elsewhere (?) in the Bering Sea she photographed the seals on which they prey, and another huge carnivore of the Arctic, the walrus, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The first is a ribbon seal; the other, a bearded seal. These walruses also live in northern Bering Sea.
Head north in the Bering Sea and you reach the setting for a few other FWS pictures of polar bears, Cape Lisburne. On the map, if you look directly across from the word Strait, there’s a peninsula, and at its tip is Cape Lisburne, where Gerry Atwell photographed these polar bears:
In many, maybe most, cases the descriptive information accompanying the FWS images is good. But in others, it is frustrating. Ellizabeth Labunski’s polar bear pictures identify their situation as 40 miles southwest of St. Lawrence Island, but the walruses and seals are far more vaguely documented as found somewhere in the northern Bering Sea. And consider this shot of two polar bear cubs. There is no indication of where the photo was taken, and the photographer is not credited.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now a lot of ice in these pictures. The FWS categorizes polar bears as marine mammals. They have their young on land, but follow the drifting ice to hunt. As the ice in the Arctic decreases, their survival prospects diminish.
Look below for some sites I came across to learn more about polar bears.
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Departing from public domain materials:
The following are either certainly or perhaps copyright-protected — that is, not public domain.
A video graphic showing how polar bear migration routes off the North Slope are linked to the Arctic ice pack off the North Slope is featured in the polar bear pages of Wandering Wildlife: Satellite and Radio Telemetry Tracking Wildlife Across the Arctic at theUS Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center. I don’t know the copyright status of this. There is also a disturbing picture and account of the first documented case of cannibalism among polar bears, likely caused by the receding ice fields’ impact on hunting grounds for the bears.
US Geological Survey: a blog , Arctic Chronicles, has a posting with video of a polar bears taken during a 2008 expedition to map the Arctic seafloor. Although this video was shot by a government employee, I’m not certain if it is public domain or if the copyright is held by their creator, Jessica Robertson, Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey.
Ever wonder what would happen if a walrus and polar bear battled to the death? Then check these videos out (note: Videos are not in the public domain). Polar Conservation has video of an actual battle. Much blood is involved. For a different outcome, head over to Animal Planet and watch its virtual battle.
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