Polar Bears: 8 Interesting things about Polar Bears

Did you know Polar Bears can eat 12,000 calories daily, and their milk is as thick as double cream? Polar bears are known for their adorable appearance, thick fur, and black noses. Canada is home to more than two-thirds of the world’s polar bears. Polar bears are the only bear species considered marine mammals since they spend most of their life on the sea ice of the Arctic Water, relying on the ocean for food and habitat.

Canada is estimated to be home to approximately 16,000 polar bears. The polar bear, also called Ursus maritimus, white bear, sea bear, or ice bear, is the great white northern bear found throughout the Arctic region.

Polar Bears: 8 Interesting things about Polar Bears
Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
Copyright 2020

The majority of a polar bear’s diet consists of seals. These big creatures travel long distances over large barren regions, usually on floating marine ice floes, in pursuit of bearded seals, their convenient food. These bears hunt seals, waiting for them to come to the surface of sea ice to breathe.

Polar bears have an amazing sense of smell, which they use to find seal breathing holes in the ice. Their stomachs can retain 10-20% of their total weight, and a typical bear may ingest 2kg of fat in a single day!

While black bears, grizzlies, and other bear species go through each winter denning, forgoing eating, drinking, moving, pooping, and peeing for months, polar bears stay active all winter.

A polar bear is also the largest and most powerful land carnivore on the land, a title it shares with the Kodiak Bear, a subspecies of brown bears. Kodiak bears also being the only bear that could rival a polar bear. Personally, if you ask me? I love polar bears. There’s so much to learn about these brilliant bears!

15 facts about polar bears that kids and grown-ups will love to discover

1. Polar Bears Are Not White Polar Bears:

The fur is transparent; it consists of two layers of transparent hair, a soft thick layer of undercoat and an outer layer of hollow guard hairs.
The layers only appear white because the air space in each hair reflects visible light. This allows them to blend in with their surrounding environment and catch unsuspecting seals. This is significant while swimming and during the frigid Arctic winter.

The polar bear’s skin is – believe it or not – actually black beneath all that fur; sunlight can penetrate the polar bear’s fur and reach its black skin, which absorbs the sun’s heat and warms its body. Additionally, The polar bear was the mascot for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.

2. Largest Land Carnivore

Polar bears may grow up to eight feet tall and weigh over 1,760 pounds, far outweighing the next land predator, the Kodiak Brown Bear, by several hundreds of pounds. Although female bears usually only weigh about half as much as males, male bears can reach 3m (9ft 11 in) and weigh more than 760 kg (1700 lb approx).

This mighty size allows these enormous creatures to hunt potent heavy animals like beluga whales and walruses. Due to their tremendous size, polar bears have no natural predators apart from humans. Surprisingly, they are the only bears considered to be marine mammals.

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
/ Copyright 2020

3. Polar Bears only Live in The Arctic Ice

This region includes areas of Greenland, Russia, the United States of America and Norway. However, up to 80% of polar bears live in one country, Canada. Polar bears may traverse islands and coastlines, but most polar bears live on ice that can be found between land masses. They like hunting for seals or finding other bears to have bear cubs with
however, their biggest threat, climate change, is melting sea ice, and polar bears are beginning to make their way further inland to find prey.

4. Mother’s Milk Is as Thick as Double Cream

A polar bear’s diet is mostly fatty blubber from seals and other marine mammals such as walrus and beluga whales. This means that the mother’s milk is very high in fat. In fact, according to the Guinness World Records, it can be more than 48% fat. This is equivalent to feeding the polar bear cubs double cream.

5. Females Can Give Birth to Cubs from Different Fathers Simultaneously!

Bears are polygynous; they rarely mate with the same bear more than once. After a week of mating, the male polar bear quickly moves on, leaving the female to give birth and care for the young.

However, the fertilized egg isn’t planted straight away due to Delayed Implantation. It stays lethargic until the fall. During this time, if the female mates with a different partner and fertilizes another egg, they could simultaneously give birth to offspring from different fathers.

6. The Maximum Life Expectancy of A Polar Bear Is 30 Years

Polar Bears live up to 24-30 years in the wild, but only a small percentage. The oldest polar bear lived to be 41 years old, named Debby. Although a few make it to this age. In captivity, bears that are treated well can live for far longer.

7. Polar Bears Are One of The Largest Bear Species on The Planet

Okay, this is a well-known fact, but you might be astonished to hear how big they are. These bears, the largest bear species, can weigh up to 600 kilograms (up to 3 metres tall when standing on their hind legs). That’s about the same weight as seven refrigerators.

8. Built-In Snow Goggles

Their eyes have built-in snow goggles. Humans visiting the arctic must wear special goggles to prevent snow blindness from the sun’s reflection on the ice. But they have special built-in membranes that filter out UV radiation that could cause eye damage.

9. Runners

These creatures are fast, with a top speed of up to 40 kilometres per hour, but they can overheat. That’s even faster than Usain Bolt. Since they’re built to withstand extreme cold regularly, they have the opposite problem: They overheat very easily and are more likely to die from heat than cold. When this happens, they dive into the cold ocean to simmer down.

10. The Grizzly bear

The brown bear of North America is the second biggest terrestrial flesh-eating animal. Polar bears and grizzly bears, two species, are closely related and have quite the same strength and size. They are nocturnal, which means they prefer to come out at dusk.

The potential of polar bears and grizzly bears to interbreed is remarkable, given that polar bears originated from brown bears only 150,000 years ago!

11. Polar Bears Often Have Twins

Twins are the most frequently born among one to four cubs. Given the severe circumstances present in their Arctic home, this evolutionary adaptation enhances the probability that at least one cub will survive to adulthood. When female polar bears give birth, they often do so in December and can usually give birth anywhere between one and four cubs at a time.

12. Polar Bears Have Utterly Inherited Paws

Polar bear footpads feature a “non-slip” surface that allows them to gain a grip on treacherous ice. Polar bears have strong legs and flattened feet with extensive webbing between their toes, which helps them swim and walk on ice. The polar bear’s large paws prevent sea ice from cracking by spreading its weight as it walks. Due to their webbed feet, polar bears, unlike other bears, are categorized as “marine mammals,” along with seals, sea lions, walruses, whales, and dolphins.

13. Fragile and Strengthless at Birth

A polar bear’s journey to being enormous begins with being little and defenceless. Cubs are born blind, toothless, and coated with a thin covering of silky, short fur. Newborn cubs are only around 25 centimetres long and weigh about one kilogramme, but they develop quickly because of their mother’s nutritious milk, which contains about 31% fat.

14. Fussy Eaters

Polar bears are quite picky about what they consume when food is available. They hunt seals, but if there are many to go around, they won’t devour their entire prey. Instead, they’ll just consume the energy-rich fat (up to 100 pounds at a time), allowing the remainder of the body to be scavenged by other animals. When hunting is good, their diet consists of 90 to 95 percent fat. When circumstances are tough, they’ll cheerfully eat reindeer, rats, eggs, seaweed, and whatever else they can get their paws on.

15. Eating a Polar Bear Could Kill You!

If a polar bear is not properly prepared, it can kill you.
Although most people are banned from hunting polar bears in the nations where they may be found, there are generally certain exceptions for Indigenous tribes who have relied on them for food and money for ages.

You can consume polar bear meat, but there are certain concerns. To kill any Trichinella parasites, they must be thoroughly boiled. These induce Trichinosis, which can cause moderate symptoms, including nausea and vomiting or death in more severe cases.

Their liver is extremely harmful due to its high vitamin A content, which can induce Hypervitaminosis A in humans.

The Icy Canada team talked to Billy Litmer, Founder of Honest Eco Tours, about the effective strategies for ensuring polar bear survival in the wild. Here is what he said:

Billy Litmer - Featured
Billy Litmer

“As a biologist and conservationist, one of the most effective strategies has been the establishment of the International Legal Framework for Polar Bear Protection. For instance, the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears (1973) acts as a cornerstone for polar bear conservation.

It sets up a legal structure for the protection and management of polar bears and their habitats, regulates hunting, establishes protected areas, and requires ongoing research and monitoring.

Additionally, polar bears are safeguarded under various other international conventions, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

These conventions either prohibit or control the international trade of polar bear products and strive to preserve their habitats.

Most crucially, it’s the actions against climate change that matter for a sustainable solution for polar bear conservation. We need to take comprehensive measures—locally, regionally, and globally—to tackle the effects of climate change.

Climate change adversely affects polar bears in parts of their range and poses the biggest threat to their long-term survival across their range.

Conservation efforts for polar bears must account for the highly variable immediate and ongoing impacts as well as the foreseeable long-term consequences of global warming.”

8 Additional Interesting facts about Polar Bears:

1. Female Polar Bears Make Snow Dens  

Pregnant polar bears make snow dens in the winter, but it is not to hibernate. These pregnant bears will dig a maternity den into a hillside where they can conceive their cubs in a safe, sheltered and warmer environment.

Polar bears give birth during the middle of winter, from January to February, so these maternity snow dens are important. The cubs are born tiny, blind, toothless, and have a scattered layer of fur, so they are incredibly fragile and vulnerable.

The mother nurtures them and keeps them warm until they are healthy enough to leave the den. Female polar bears are extremely defensive of their polar bear cubs since they may die of starvation or they may be killed by male polar bears, which is why the polar bear cubs remain with their mothers until they secure sexual maturity.

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
/ Copyright 2021

2. Rapid Growth in the first few months:

Polar bears weigh 16 and 24 ounces at birth, which is about the same as a guinea pig. *oink* They are blind, toothless, and only around a foot long as babies. However, by the time they emerge from their nest for the first time four months later, they grow significantly in size, weighing between 22 and 33 pounds, and by 8 months, they are about 100 pounds or more.

3. Swimmers:

These big bears are expert swimmers. Evolved to have a narrow skull and long flexible neck, which are believed to have streamlined their bodies in the water and provided the reach and flexibility they need to bring their noses up for air. Their large front paws are about 12 inches wide and flat and act as paddles when they swim and help them hunt marine animals underwater.

Additionally, these giant marine mammals have a two to four-inch layer of body fat that helps keep them buoyant and warm as they swim. A tagged female polar bear swam 426 miles across the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska in one nine-day stretch in 2011, losing 22 percent of her body weight. Polar bears are considered marine animals since they spend most of their life in the Arctic Ocean.

Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash
Copyright 2019

4. Gimme Food!

Although polar bears are mostly lone creatures, they sometimes display signs of friendship. One method is face-to-face communication. When one polar bear needs food from another, it will often approach them quietly. The bear will then circle the food source, approach the other polar bears, and rub their noses with them.

This is a passive-aggressive tactic that frequently results in a shared dinner.

A side-to-side head movement is another indicator of friendliness. Polar bears normally want to play when they stand on their hind legs, let their front paws dangle down, and wag their heads. This is frequent in cubs, particularly siblings.

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
/Copyright 2020

5. Ranges

Polar bears are mostly found north of the Arctic Circle, all the way to the North Pole. They may be found in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and several of Norway’s northern islands, such as Svalbard. Check out The Tales of The Amazing Polar Bears in Canada for more.

6. Fasting

They spend a lot of time fasting, i.e. up to eight months. Polar bears spend a significant amount of time fasting when not out on the ice looking for seals. The female bears fast longer than any other mammal species—in Canada’s Hudson Bay, pregnant bears can last up to 240 days, or almost eight months.

When summer arrives, and the sea ice recedes, polar bears migrate to land to enjoy the ice-free season. They can survive for extended periods without feeding during this season, living solely on the fat stores they built up throughout the winter by consuming seal blubber. On the other hand, female polar bears can go four to eight months without eating, from the time they enter their den to conceive a cub until they emerge from the cave and arrive at the ice edge the following spring.

7. Pizzly Bear

A pizzly bear, also called a Grolar Bear, is a hybrid between a grizzly bear and a polar bear. Climate change is driving polar bears to extinction, but it has also given rise to a new species that will inherit the species’ DNA – “Pizzly bears.” This new type of bear is resilient to climate change and better suited for warmer temperatures.

Unlike polar bears, pizzly bears are well adapted to eat hard foods like plant tubers and scavenge carcasses when resources are limited. These rare hybrid creatures were first seen in 2006. These bears have a mostly white coat, a brownish hue, and a nose that crosses a polar bear and a grizzly bear.

Polar bears are magnificent mammals whose survival is jeopardized by climate catastrophe. We can all assist in combating climate change and save wonderful arctic species like the polar bear.

8. Receding Sea Ice and a decline in polar bear numbers 🙁

Polar bears are estimated to number between 22,000 and 31,000 in the wild. Only one of the 19 subpopulations is growing in population, while the other five are steady, four are declining, and nine are unknown. The most serious threat is habitat loss, which includes thinning and melting ice, early sea ice breakup, and consequent hunger owing to an inability to reach an inadequate food source.

Other hazards include polar bear-human conflict, which is becoming more common as they spend less time on the ice and hunting and industrial-related issues like oil spills. Most scientists believe that the polar bear population has decreased dramatically, and some fear it could become extinct by the end of the century.

In an interview with the Icy Canada team, Cameron Holland, Marketing Director at GB Foam, advocated voting for climate action and renewable energy for polar bear survival. Here is what he had to say:

Cameron Holland - Featured
Cameron Holland

“Cast your ballot and make a statement. The most crucial thing you can do is vote in every election while keeping the environment in mind. Additionally, convey to your legislators your support for audacious climate action.

Encourage a change in energy. Participate in local initiatives that use renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, to partially or completely replace fossil fuels. Investigate the sustainable energy sources that are accessible to you.

Discuss it! Open up to your friends, family, and co-workers about climate change and its solutions.”

Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International’s purpose is to protect polar bears and the sea ice on which they thrive. PBI seeks to encourage people to care about the Arctic, the dangers to its future, and the link between this isolated region and our global climate through media, science, and activism. PBI is the only non-profit organization devoted solely to wild polar bears and Arctic sea ice, and its workforce includes scientists who research wild polar bears. The group is widely regarded as a pioneer in polar bear conservation.

For more information, visit www.polarbearsinternational.org.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on by Saket Kumar


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