the polar bear that wasn’t

The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world returns. Using testimony from scientific experts, interviews with the key players and dramatic reconstructions, the series tells the stories of unique discoveries that have shocked naturalists and led to a broader understanding of the animal kingdom. This first episode examines the discovery of a mysterious animal in a remote part of the Arctic Circle.

In April 2006, hunter Jim Martell set out on an expedition to track down one of the most fearsome creatures on Earth – the polar bear. As the world’s largest land predator, the polar bear has been known to target humans. For Jim, his journey to the remote Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic Circle to confront these beasts was the trip of a lifetime. Accompanied by his Inuit guide, Roger Kuptana, Jim set off in the early hours of the morning, not expecting the drama that would soon follow.

The pair began their quest under dog-sled power, skimming across miles of three-foot-thick frozen sea. Then, after tracking on foot for nearly two hours towards the south-east of the island, they spotted their prize. Jim fired a single bullet, which was enough to fell the beast. But as the men approached the magnificent creature, they were in for a shock.

Roger, a skilled huntsman, realised that this was no ordinary polar bear. In fact, it looked nothing like it should. It had dark rings circling its eyes and, most frightening of all, an unusual hump rising from its back. Roger had never seen anything like it before on the island. The pair alerted the Canadian authorities and made their way back to the mainland with the monstrous body in tow.

When experts viewed the remains, they were unsure what to make of them. In addition, officials claimed that Jim had violated the rights of his hunting permit by shooting an animal that was not a polar bear. Jim faced conviction for a crime he did not commit, despite the having purchased a permit for $40,000. It was now up to scientists to identify this unknown animal and solve a most baffling mystery.

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