Polar bears may appear to be all soft and cuddly, but they are the largest of their species, not to mention the world's largest terrestrial carnivore and therefore, extremely dangerous. But don't mention that to Canadian animal trainer Mark Dumas, whose best pal just happens to be, a big cuddly snow white polar bear!
Mark and Agee's unusual friendship began when the bear was just six weeks old. The wild animal trainer adopted her from a zoo and brought her home where she was bottle fed and allowed to frolic with his other (more normal) pets, until she became an adolescent.
While Agee may not live at home anymore, the bond between her and Mark has never waned. Even as the cute baby has grown into a 16-year old 800 pound adult, the two have continued to be best buds and are constantly seen playing, swimming and even wrestling together - Something Mark realizes could be fatal if Agee turns aggressive. However, the trainer who has been working with bears for over 40 years says he is able to read their body language and knows when to back off.
In addition to being Mark's buddy, Agee is also the world's first trained polar bear celebrity, with films like Alaska (done as a cub) and a number of television advertisements under her belt. And, she is not the only unusual animal this talented man and his wife Dawn have nurtured and trained. The British Columbia based 'Beyond Just Bears' founders regularly adopt animals ranging ravens to cougars and even grizzly bears and train them for tinseltown.
In the wild, polar bears can largely be found along the shores and on sea ice in the freezing Arctic region. The large mammals that can weigh between 500-1,500 pounds, are the most carnivorous land animal, feeding largely off ringed and bearded seals. While they do not go out of their way to attack humans, they can be very aggressive and even fatal, if they feel threatened.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many animal species, the melting ice caused by global warming is seriously impacting the population of these cuddly bears. That's because during the summer months when they are most active, they rely on sea ice as their habitat for hunting and dens. As the ice continues to melt the mammals have to walk longer distances to find suitable homes, which takes away from their time to find a meal. Adding to the issue is the fact that the loss of ice is also impacting the population of their primary source of food - seals. Hopefully, we can find a way to reverse the dire trends and prevent the bears from disappearing altogether.
Resources: nwf.org, huffingtonpost.com