Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
Status: Vulnerable. Protected in Svalbard, Norway.
Area: Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia.
Offspring: One litter (two cubs) every 2 to 4 years.
Predators: Killer whale, male walrus or wolf, but these are rare occurrences.
· Polar bears are the most carnivorous of bears.
· Man is polar bears’ biggest danger.
· Polar bears are larger than grizzlies.
· When emerging from water, polar bears shake the water from their fur so it doesn’t freeze.
· A polar bear is the size of a rat at birth.
· Their eyesight is better than most bears.
Seals are the favourite meal of polar bears—they will go to great lengths to capture a seal. Although seals are better swimmers, their eyesight is poorer and polar bears, thanks to their white coats which provide camouflage, are able to trick seals by pretending to be chunks of ice, until they’re close enough to attack. Polar bears sometimes cover their black noses with a white paw in order to defy detection. The bears eat only the fat and skin of the seals, while the rest gets eaten by arctic foxes and ravens. Other food for polar bears includes ducks, mussels, walrus, arctic foxes and whales, as well as berries, grass and seaweed. Powerful swimmers, they can go speeds of up to five miles per hour using only their front legs. They are able to dive and can remain underwater for two full minutes. They’re also fast runners over short distances and can even outrun a reindeer. They can become aggressive when confronted by people but usually the two don’t live in the same area.
Polar bears tend to have much larger territories than any other bears. Although they typically stay within a home range of a few hundred square miles, polar bears have been known to travel as far as 3,000 miles across the tundra in search of food. They are not territorial and don’t mind other bears being in close proximity, though they probably won’t interact. Polar bears are hunted extensively in Canada and Greenland, and to a lesser extent in Russia and Alaska.
Although polar bears don’t usually hibernate, they do create winter dens and pregnant females often rest inside before giving birth. Mating occurs in the spring, and the litters are born in November or December. Cubs weigh two pounds at birth and remain with their mothers for 1˝ years, returning to her den for the first winter following their birth. Mothers and cubs may group together, but will stay away from males, who may harm the cubs. Both cubs and adults are extremely playful with each other, and sometimes even with other species, such as dogs.