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Polar bear pets dog in moment of interspecies friendship

A tour guide catches an unusual encounter on video as a polar bear takes a break from being fierce to give a sled dog a pat on the head.

Is it the call of the mild? A polar bear, normally known for its apex predator status, seemed to show off a softer side when it came into contact with a fluffy sled dog in northern Manitoba, Canada, last weekend. David de Meulles, a tour guide with North Star Tours, captured video of the surprisingly encounter.

It's impossible to tell what is really going through the polar bear's mind when it reaches out a giant paw and strokes the dog's head. For people, it looks like an "aw" moment of cuteness, though details later emerged that show the darker side of nature in action.

CBC tracked down the location of the dog to the property of Brian Ladoon, who runs a dog sanctuary. According to the CBC, conservation officers removed a polar bear from Ladoon's property last week after it killed one of his dogs.

"I've known the bears to have somewhat friendly behaviour with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing," de Meulles told CBC News. The dog in the video appears totally nonchalant about the large bear, which gives the pooch several strokes on its head and back. Polar bears prefer to snack on seals, but have also been known to nibble on carcasses and even rodents and birds.

The bear in the video looks to be curious rather than hungry, but a history of polar bear removals from Ladoon's land, along with an admission that he has been feeding the bears, will lead to more questions about the safety of both the dogs and the polar bears.

Update, November 18 at 6:40 a.m. PT: Adds background details from CBC on the dog's owner and actions taken by conservation officers dealing with polar bears on his property.