A pregnant polar bear seeking to dig her maternity den chose an unlikely spot: a snow drift along a bridge leading to an artificial production island off the north coast of Alaska.
As a threatened species, polar bears are entitled to peaceful pregnancies and the operating oil company, Hilcorp Alaska LLC, took vigorous measures to make sure that happened. In consultation with federal wildlife authorities, Hilcorp restricted traffic on the causeway, monitored the den and kept things mostly quiet until mother and cub emerged three months later.
"The bear, wherever she decided to den, she's the emphasis," said Christopher Putnam, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supervisory biologist.