Dan Guravich (1918-1997)

  • D. Matthews
  • I.N. Higginson
Keywords: Animal behaviour, Biographies, Ethics, Guravich, Dan, 1918-1997, Photography, Polar bears, Scientists, Tourist trade, Zoology, Arctic regions, Beaufort Sea, Canadian Arctic, Churchill, Cape, Manitoba


In all, Guravich traveled to the Arctic 75 times, ranging throughout the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and to Alaska, Greenland, Svalbard, and Wrangel Island. He knew the polar bear haunts where he could photograph the bears in safety and comfort. Over the years, Guravich's effort brought about a significant improvement in how polar bears were treated. At one time, scientists spray-painted huge identification numbers on bears they had captured, tagged, and released. Photographers were dismayed at having their subjects sullied, but Guravich felt the numbers were demeaning and insulting to the bears, as well. He campaigned to reduce the frequency with which bears are tagged, suggesting that it was unnecessary to capture and tag all the bears in the Arctic to gather scientifically valid statistical information about them. Guravich persuaded researchers to sterilize needles used in darting bears, to avoid transferring blood from one bear to another, and to take sanitary precautions when removing teeth from bears in order to establish age. He was particularly critical of experiments that led to the death of several bears. For science, Guravich was among the first to provide photographic documentation of polar bears behavior and social interaction, revealing that the animals are not solitary, antisocial loners, as once supposed. Over the years, his observations helped to ameliorate the public view of the bears. [Guravich became the spokesperson and calm voice behind Polar Bears Alive, a nonprofit organization devoted to conserving and promoting the understanding of Ursus maritimus. He was also the first photographer to do a feature article on polar bears that started the tourist craze to view polar bears at Cape Churchill; and, along with Len Smith conceived the idea of the tundra buggy, a polar version of a swamp buggy. From 1980 to 1996, Guravich spent every fall with Len Smith at Cape Churchill, accompanied by scores of photographers, both amateur and professional.] ... Dan Guravich's work continues, through Polar Bears Alive .... His photographic achievements can be viewed at http://www.guravich.com.