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Maternal affection

Polar bears on ice.png The Polar, or great white bearThumbnailsPolar BearThe Polar, or great white bearThumbnailsPolar BearThe Polar, or great white bearThumbnailsPolar Bear

Whilst a ship on a voyage of discovery to the North Pole was locked in the ice, one morning the man at the masthead reported that three bears were making their way towards the ship. They had, no doubt, been invited by the scent of some blubber of a sea-horse which the crew was burning on the ice at the time of their approach. They proved to be a she bear and her two cubs; but the cubs were nearly as large as the dam. They ran eagerly to the fire, and drew out part of the flesh that remained unconsumed, and ate it voraciously. The crew threw great lumps of the flesh which they had still left upon the ice, which the old bear fetched away singly, laying every lump before the cubs as she brought it, and dividing it, gave each a share, reserving but a small portion to herself. As she was fetching away the last piece, they shot both the cubs dead, and wounded the dam, but not mortally. It would have drawn tears of pity from any but the most unfeeling to have marked the affectionate concern of this poor animal in the dying moments of her expiring young. Though sorely wounded, she crawled to the place where they lay, carrying a lump of flesh she had just fetched away, tore it in pieces, and laid it down before them; when she saw that they refused to eat, she laid her paws first upon one, then upon the other, and endeavoured to raise them up, making at the same time the most pitiable moans. Finding she could not stir them, she went off, and when she had got at some distance, looked back and moaned; and that not availing to entice them away, she returned, and smelling round them, began to lick their wounds. She went off a second time, and having crawled a few paces, looked again behind her, and for some time stood moaning. But her cubs not rising to follow her, she returned, and with signs of inexpressible fondness went round them, pawing them successively. Finding at last that they were cold and lifeless, she raised her head towards the ship, and growled a curse upon the destroyers, which they returned with a volley of musket-balls. She fell between her cubs, and died licking their wounds.

A Hundred Anecdotes of Animals
Percy J. Billinghurst
Published 1901
Availalble from gutenberg.org
Bear, Carnivores