High above the Arctic Circle, Inupiaq subsistence hunter James Tazruk was out with his party looking for caribou and polar bears. Riding on snowmobiles, they spotted a large bear traveling across the tundra, and Tazruk took the shot with his rifle at 100 yards. It was an instant kill. According to Anchorage Daily News, when the hunters approached the bear they made the dreaded discovery that it had been a nursing sow.
“It was just very unfortunate that it had to be a mamma,” Tazruk said.
Under federal law, subsistence hunters are allowed to harvest polar bears, but not to intentionally take females with cubs. Tazruk never saw the cubs, but he knew where they were going to be. The female’s den was roughly 1,500 feet away from where he had fired the shot, and inside was a single male cub.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to take you home,” he recalled telling it. “Just don’t bite me.”
The hunter stepped inside the small den and took the cub in his arms, driving it back home to Point Lay on a snowmobile. During the trip he made a single stop at a cabin to borrow a pair of ski pants, which were used as a makeshift cradle. When he returned home, the meat from the harvest was offered to the town elders while the animal’s fur and claws were reserved for artists. Tazruk had previously harvested eight polar bears, but it was his first female.
“It was unfortunate. I was saddened,” Tazruk said. “I did the right thing by bringing the bear cub back.”
The people of Tazruk’s hometown named the cub Kali.
Kali spent some time in the town’s police hall and was later transported the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, where it entered a regimen of eating and napping. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped up in trying to find the cub a permanent home. To this end, the bear was shipped via UPS to the Buffalo Zoo in New York. Discovery News reports that decision was made so that Kali would be in the company of other bear cubs, including a young female named Luna. Here the bear will stay until officials can figure out a more lasting arrangement.
You can see video of Kali below: