Known primarily by their snow white fur and for their expert hunting and swimming skills, polar bears are still a mystery to biologists in many ways. The extreme conditions of wild polar bears’ native climate, as well as the fact that the bears are usually moving from island to island, make it difficult for researchers to get close enough to observe them in daily life.
However, thanks to tech-savvy photographers wielding “spy cameras,” biologists are getting a much more intimate picture of polar bears. This clip from BBC’s Polar Bear: Spy On The Ice documentary demonstrates a rarely-seen quality of polar bears—their curiosity:
Svalbard is composed of a group of arctic islands between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole. It is known for its massive glaciers and vast remoteness, as well as for its large populations of reindeer, arctic foxes, and of course, curious polar bears.
BBC’s videography team employed five different types of camouflaged (and well-armored) spy cameras to shoot the documentary: “Icebergcam,” “Blizzardcam,” “Snowballcam,” “Snowcam,” and “Driftcam.” These cameras followed the bears through life, documenting playful cubs’ misadventures and adult polar bears’ hunting, courtship, and parenting habits as their habitat shrinks due to global warming.
“Often just a paw’s swipe from the play-fighting and squabbling bears, the spy cameras face their most challenging subject yet,” wrote BBC in the program’s description on their website. “When their curious subjects discover the cameras, they are subjected to some comical-but-destructive encounters.”