Animals

By Laura Shepherd


Most mums will recognise this face – the moment a harassed mother polar bear ‘shouted’ at her naughty cubs because she just wanted five minutes’ peace.

Like the popular children’s book of the same name, this arctic mammal seemed desperate for a brief break from her three adorable but needy offspring.

PIC BY SHAYNE MCGUIRE/MERCURY PRESS

American photographer Shayne McGuire spent 21 hours waiting in freezing conditions to eventually capture the familiar family scene in Kaktovik, Alaska.

And she said while the mother polar bear looks to be chiding her offspring for their unruly behaviour, she was actually roaring at another female which had ventured too close to their area.

Shayne, from California, said: “I guess all mums get cranky!

“This photo makes me smile for two reasons. One for the mother bear’s reaction, but also because polar bear cubs have a high mortality rate so to see a mum with three cubs still alive is always good. With climate change, these bears are going to have a tough time surviving without much ice.

“The image generated quite a lot of talk and a lot of humourous reactions.

PIC BY MERCURY PRESS

“People said they loved the mum telling everyone off, with the look on the cubs’ faces the deal breaker – people were laughing at that.

“A lot of other people were also happy to see three cubs still alive.

“It’s the first time I have ever seen anything like this happen.

“I think with all the bad going on in the world and everyday stress in people’s lives, most people look forward to a feel-good or humourous moment to break that chain.

“In actual fact, the mother was letting another female polar bear know she was too close to her and her cubs.

PIC BY MERCURY PRESS

“Any mother would be protective of her babies, and this mother polar bear was no exception.

“Female polar bears usually lose their young to other hungry polar bears when food is scarce.”

Shayne, who teaches at two photography schools and run photographic tours and workshops as her full-time job, has been taking pictures for ‘as long as she can remember’.

She captured the remarkable image during a tour which saw her hire a boat captain to take her and other wannabe wildlife snappers along the shoreline.

PIC BY MERCURY PRESS

The group spotted the polar bear family at a ‘bone pile’ where whale bones are discarded and polar bears go to feed.

But the hard-won photos were not easy to achieve as Shayne spent four days sailing Alaska’s coast, spending six to eight hours a day in the cold each day, before snapping the perfect shot.

Shayne said: “I spent six to eight hours a day for four days in the cold just waiting to capture this image, but patience paid off.

PIC BY MERCURY PRESS

“The photo was taken late in the afternoon while the light was fading.

“I really don’t take any photos apart from animal photography. I love watching and photographing wildlife.

“I have been blessed to witness some things in nature that most people will never see.”