To some people, a polar bear is a majestic animal. To others it’s a scary beast. But no matter what your perception, it’s undeniable that as global warming continues to shrink the polar icecap and warm the Arctic Sea polar bears are now an endangered species.
There was a time when they were plentiful. The kings of their domain, they roamed the cold north, feasting on seal and fish and providing native hunters with food and fur. And sometimes, in the case of big game hunters, the bears became trophies. Elusive and fearsome, they were not easy to find or confront, but one day in 1961, Harry D. Tousley, a business owner, hunter, and later a Children’s Museum trustee, spotted a 12-year-old male on an ice floe in the Bering Strait, 250 miles east of Kotzebue, Alaska. He shot the bear, and out of respect for the beauty and ferocity of his prey, had him stuffed and mounted.
Standing 9 feet 2 inches tall and weighing nearly 1,200 pounds, Mr. Tousley’s polar bear came to the museum as a long-term loan in 1965. In 1986 the Tousley family formally donated the bear, making him a permanent part of the museum’s collection. Today he stands tall on the Level 2 Mezzanine, a reminder of another era when the only thing endangering a polar bear was the occasional hunter.