Monday, January 9, 2012

The Nose Knows

When we first saw the polar bear at the Indianapolis Zoo, it looked—maybe not dejected—but certainly a little overwhelmed by holiday ennui. Soon enough, however, it became more active and, seemingly, more sanguine—a word that I choose quite deliberately.

After pacing around its enclosure and relieving itself, much to the fascinated—and highly vocal—horror of some zoo visitors, the polar bear started sniffing the air with great interest.

The air in our direction, that is. I’m pretty sure we were upwind of the bear (er…that’s where they can smell you, right?), and it seemed pretty sure of that as well.

It’s a little unnerving to have a gargantuan, clearly carnivorous creature with claws the size of human fingers sniffing at you.

It’s more unnerving when said creature, presumably in response to what it has smelled, starts licking its chops.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about getting a chance to see a polar bear, and certainly captive animals have a right to whatever entertainment they can get, provided they don’t eat the visitors (well, provided they only eat certain visitors; I have a list).

Still, it was not a cute-and-fuzzy sort of a moment, and it left me in some doubt as to whether polar bears or tigers are the scarier. I’m still not sure, myself, but I’d be interested in your opinion on the subject.

Scream and run from this:

...Or this?

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

I'd rather not find out, is my viewpoint. Gorgeous shots of the polar bear, and this from someone who just photographed one--badly--last Friday.

biobabbler said...

oh, jeepers, thanks for directly feeding the fear dreams I have: 1 features (100% silent) polar bears because I, as biologist, KNOW they happily eat people. =) Yes, then tiger; you know, your house cat blown up to insanely-over-the-top-way-too-much-killing-finesse-to-know-what-to-do-with. Uh, yow. Pretty much hosed either way, but I'd IMAGINE the cat is faster?? What fun things to contemplate at 7 a.m. on a Monday. =) whee! (honestly, tho', love this sort of thing)

You COULD, of course, elect polar bear in, say the Mojave, and the tiger in, say, the Arctic Circle. So, MAYBE they'd be 1% off their game (oog, so to speak, as we'd be the game, in this scenario).

So, my kitties lick their lips after a good, long sniff, frequently during, as I believe they're really licking their sniffer, the wetness helping them to smell more. But, that does not mean said sniffer is not very happily sniffing out you and enjoying the thought.

Watching a lion in zoo years ago, the male roared, and my friend and I, both tall, well-educated, and invincible in our 20s, looked at each other and w/o a word, left, grinning nervously. Freaked out our caveman brain, so we left the mothers with babies (which intrigued the lion to no end) behind, giggling at our scaredy cat selves (no pun intended) as we climbed out of cat canyon. Some times you just need to heed your amygdala (, then access your hippocampus to get the heck outta there. =) Nice/spooky pics. =)

biobabbler said...

oh, speaking of big cats and fear and dreams:

therein I describe a biologists brain as "a factually accurate Scarey Dream Speed Dial." Yeah, baby! =)

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Good points, both of you, in that probably both are not exactly good news for the hapless human that find him or herself available as a snack. @Biobabbler: That's a seriously terrifying dream about big cats. Also, good point about cats licking to get more scent into their vomeronasal organ (that's what it's called, right? It's been a while since Vetebrate Structure and Evolution). But I'm pretty sure this bear was *also* enjoying our delectable flavor. Eeek.

The moral of the story, I guess, is to stay away from all large predators...

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