Adorable images of a polar bear cub hitching a ride on its mother during an Arctic swim
Perhaps the cub was just too tired to take the plunge. Or maybe it didn’t fancy taking a dip in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Either way, it seemed to find the perfect solution to its predicament – by hitching a bear-back ride on its mother.
These adorable pictures show the moment a polar bear cub was granted its very own water taxi between the islands of Svalbard in Norway.
Earlier, the pair were spotted on an ice floe floating between the islands. While mother bear seemed to be contemplating her next move, her little one appeared to huddle into the warmth of her thick fur to shield against the bitter winds.
It was after she got into the water the cub clambered on to her back and the pair made a safe passage to mainland.
Once back on dry land, mother and child set about exploring the islands – located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole – in their search for food.
The adorable family scene was captured on camera by photographer Kevin Schafer, from Seatte, while he was on a cruise.
Kevin, 60, said: ‘In 25 years of observing polar bears, this was easily the most moving thing I have ever seen.
‘It was a moment of pure tenderness – unusual for such a world-class predator.’
He added: ‘Small cubs do not have the insulation needed to spend a lot of time in the icy waters. The young bear was probably trying to keep warm.’
Rising temperatures caused by global warming has seen the polar bear’s natural habitat fall apart in recent years, resulting in them having to swim longer distances to reach a food supply.
Last year scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder revealed water flowing from the North Atlantic into the Arctic is at its warmest level for more than 2,000 years.
According to their research, the sea in the Gulf Stream between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard reached an average of 6C (42F) in recent summers, warmer than at natural peaks during Roman or Medieval times.
Scientists fear the temperature spikes could lead to an ice-free Arctic in years to come and could endanger polar bears, who need the ice in order to survive.
Studies show between 1979 and 2009 an area larger than the state of Alaska disappeared.