“The huge polar bear is one of the largest land carnivores in the world. Its coat, which varies in color from pure white to shades of yellow, blends in well with its snow-covered environment.” (Wildlife Fact-File) We humans are so very drawn to the polar bear and like little children we would love to hug a cub or be hugged by the huge mama or papa bear. Yet we know how violent they can be!
Like most families we spent a lot of time in zoos and our kids loved it, especially looking at polar bears and their cubs. My husband and I would also take time to read the information provided in the zoo for their favorite animals and too answer any questions they had. As they got older they read the information themselves and also go to the animals they were most interested in. We would always buy replicas of their favorite animals or a book about them.
They had loads of stuffed animals and many looked just like the animals. The animals would be part of their play and we built quite a library on animals. In addition, they watched many programs on TV from National Geographic which we watched together as a family since we all loved wild animals.
When we came home from one of our visits in the zoo, our daughter who was in first grade wrote this story, “White Fury Thing.” I was sitting in my igloo with nothing to do so I decided to go on a hike. I made a list of what I needed: food, clothes, matches, blankets, water, first-aid kit, and a knife. Then I gathered it al and put it in my backpack and started on my way. I was thinking if I could have forgotten anything. “Oh, I forgot my compass.” I went back in and got it and started on my way to catch myself a polar bear. First, I went and looked by the coast. I saw a white fury thing moving around. It was a polar bear and it saw me. I reached for my gun but I forgot it. I started running and running. It jumped on me and slashed my face. Somehow I pulled myself away and jumped into a car. There were keys on it so I put the key in the hole and ran the polar bear over. Then I got out and stabbed it just to make sure it was dead. Finally I went home wearing a polar bear coat.”
Children both fear and love wild animals as adults. There is that feeling of wanting to have control over their wildness as my daughter’s story illustrates. After all, as humans we want to survive. We all need to know more and respect the animals in their nature as well as preserving their habitat. Humans and animals have inhabited the earth since life began but obviously our industrial age has been very destructive and deadly to wild animals. Future generations must be able to admire and learn from all animals in their natural habitat.
Where are polar bears found? The Wildlife Fact-File says, “Polar bears are found throughout the polar region, but they spend most of their time along the southern edge of the icecap on coastal land near open water. They are solitary animals and are active at all times of the year. Polar bears are also excellent swimmers. They cruise through the water at speeds of up to six miles per hour, using the front legs to propel them, with their hind legs trailing behind. With their eyes open and nostrils closed, they can dive under water as well, remained submerged for two minutes. When they emerge, they immediately shake the water from their coats before it freezes.”
The polar region is one of the beautiful part of the world. When we landed in Iceland just for fuel it was daylight. Most of us were fascinated with the scenery of just snow and ice. We looked for polar bears while landing and taking off but we could not see them. It always amazes me to see this great big and heavy animal be so agile in running and swimming.
The standing height of a polar bear is 8-11 feet. The height while it is on four legs is five feet. Their foot size is twelve inches long and ten inches wide. Their weight is from 880-990 pounds. Females weigh from 660-770 lb..
Polar bears reach sexual maturity when they are three to five years. Mating season is from March-June. The gestation period is from seven to eight months. The litter is usually two.
While polar bears are solitary at times they come together to feed. Their diet is mainly seal fat and skin, carrion, and vegetation in summer. Their distribution is in the southern edge of the arctic ice cap.
All countries who have polar bears have conservation projects and regulate hunting. They declined to 5,000 but there may be close to 40,00 in this decade. In the future it will depend on the protection of the arctic environment. Of course this sounds rather precarious since we are seeing more and more signs all over the world of global warming. The polar bears count on us to do something about this.
How do the polar bears hunt seals? They prey on seals and their pups. The bear catches the adult seals ambushing them at their breathing holes in the ice. Polar bears have an excellent sense of smell and they can sniff out a pup in its den up to three feet under the ground. The bear digs up the pup and devours it.
The Ringed seal lives around or under coastal ice. The cow gives birth in a den under the snow and ice and provides her pup with a breathing hole. The pup keeps warm in the den and provides some protection from the predatory Arctic fox and polar bear.
“Polar bears are well suited for life on the icy tundra. They are immensely strong and active-the soles of their feet are covered with fur, which gives them stability on slippery, frozen ground.” (Wildlife Fact-File) This is illlustrated by a bear walking on partial ice with water around it and two bears standing up on the ice playing with their mouth open and showing their huge sharp teeth. When one looks at the bear’s eyes, one sees how focused they are.
Polar bears wait for seals to come to the water surface to breathe to attack. They also stalk them while they rest on the ice. The seal is killed by a crushing blow to its thin skull. The Polar bears eat everything. In late summer and early autumn, they will patrol the coastal areas looking for whale and walrus carcasses. Ten or twenty bears may be found feeding together. Their diet is more varied including land animals as lemmings, arctic foxes, and eider ducks. Polar bears also eat vegetation like most bears.
What great and strong swimmers they are! They have been seen as far as fifty miles from ice or land. They also have a very acute sense of smell since they can smell carrion, such as dead whale, from 20 miles away. In addition they can sniff out seal dens that are covered with snow.
How clever they are! Humans can see the black nose of a polar bear on the snow from six miles using binoculars. It has to be a clear day. It has been known to cover its nose with its paw when stalking seals to avoid detection. The temperature inside a polar bear’s den can be 40 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature.
Just how do these amazing animals breede? They obviously get spring fever since springtime is their mating season. Most of the activity takes place in April. Females breede every third year after separating from their young. Males therefore have to seek available females.
The Wildlife Fact-File book states, “The dens are usually located on south-facing slopes of hills where northerly winds pile up large amounts of snow.” The bears dig dens in the snow or tundra in October and November. They are used for giving birth. In the month of November or December the young are born and weigh only 16-32 ounces and are hairless, blind, and deaf. How amazing this is that that these little creatures who are so small will grow to be almost a thousand pounds. How helpless they are and yet how powerful they will be!
Their cubs are no bigger than a rat when they are born. They stay in the den until the next March or April and will remain with their mother until the third spring. A photo shows three cubs snuggling with their mother. How much children and adults would want to snuggle with them!