The polar bear (Ursus maritimus “sea bear”) belongs to the class of mammals, the order of predators, the suborder of canine animals, the bear family, the genus of bears. It is believed that polar bears evolved from brown bears in the course of evolution and adaptation to the northern polar latitudes. Polar bear (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (770–1,540 lb) while a adult female is about half that size. The largest land predator of the planet after the saltwater crocodile
Outwardly, the polar bear is similar to its relatives bears, differing only in the flat shape of the skull and the elongated neck. The color of the coat is predominantly white, sometimes with a yellowish tint; in summer, the animal’s coat may turn yellow when exposed to sunlight. The nose is black, as is the color of the skin. Long and thick fur makes the polar bear not afraid of the harsh climate and is not exposed to low temperatures. The hair of wool is hollow and filled with air inside. The soles of the paws are covered with woolen pile, so they do not freeze and do not slip on the ice, among which the animal calmly bathes in the cold waters of the north.
All representatives of this species have a tail, and the polar bear is no exception in this regard. The tail is small, 7 to 13 centimeters (5 inches). These animals are fast swimmers, which is achieved due to the presence of membranes between their toes.
Where does the polar bear live?
The polar bear’s natural habitat extends to the northern coasts of the continents, as well as to the southern parts of the drifting ice that fringes the warm currents of the seas and oceans. Polar bears are found along the entire coast of the Arctic Ocean, with the largest populations located on the continental slope of the ocean. Most bears do not go further than 88 degrees north latitude, while the extreme point of their distribution in the south is the island of Newfoundland, whose few inhabitants risk their lives every day trying to get along with a dangerous predator. The polar bear is also well known to the inhabitants of the arctic and tundra zones of Russia, Greenland, the USA and Canada. Most of the animals live in areas with drifting perennial ice, where there are also many seals and walruses. Usually a polar bear sits near an ice-hole, waiting for a seal to rise from the depths.
How long does a polar bear live?
Polar bears live longer in captivity than in their natural habitat. The average life expectancy in the wild is no more than 20-30 years, while in a zoo a bear can live up to 45-50 years. This is due to the reduced food supply, the annual melting of glaciers and the incessant extermination of predators by humans.
Polar bears make seasonal migrations, due to the process of changing the territories and boundaries of the northern ice, depending on the season. Therefore, in the summer, the animals approach the North Pole, and in the winter they return, on the contrary, and often even enter the mainland.
The animal prefers a solitary lifestyle, males and females gather together only during the rutting season. The rest of the time, bears move exclusively in their own territory, reclaimed from their other brethren, and this applies not only to males, but also to females with newborn offspring. Animals are excellent swimmers and divers. With its sharp claws, the bear is able to perfectly dig out the snow, pulling out a comfortable and warm den for itself. In winter, animals sleep a lot, but do not go into complete hibernation.
Polar bears live on drifting ice floes, where they hunt ringed seals, bearded seals, walruses and other marine life. They sneak out of shelters or wait for victims at the ice-hole: as soon as the animal protrudes out of the water, the bear hits it with its paw, stuns it and pulls it out onto the ice. In addition, it can feed on carrion, dead fish, eggs and chicks, eats grass and algae. Polar bears living near settlements, frequent guests of garbage dumps, also attack food warehouses of polar expeditions. In search of food, a bear can starve for up to 4 months.
Reproduction of a polar bear
The polar bear is a solitary animal. In relation to each other, bears are peaceful, collisions between males occur only during the mating season, when 3-4 males follow the female. Reproduction from March to June. In October, females dig dens on the shore. They have favorite places, for example,
Wrangel Island or Franz Josef Land, where there are 150-200 dens each. Gestation lasts 230-250 days, with cubs born in the middle or late arctic winter. But the female sleeps in the den until April.
Animals have a fairly low birth rate. The female is able to become pregnant at the age of four, producing only one, in extreme cases, three cubs, and no more than fifteen in her entire life. At the age of three months, the cubs, together with their mother, leave their burrows and begin to lead a
nomadic lifestyle. Cubs live with their mother for up to 1.5 years, while milk feeding lasts. The infant mortality rate is high – 10-30%. Until the cubs become independent, the mother protects them from enemies and dangers. Fathers are indifferent to their children and can also pose a serious threat to them.
A predator as large as the polar bear has virtually no natural enemies. Most often, adult polar bears die as a result of injuries when colliding with each other or when hunting large walruses, which can easily pierce the bear’s body with fangs. Polar bears are just as likely to starve to death.
The most dangerous enemy of polar bears is man. Despite the existing bans and a number of protective measures, poaching is doing its dirty business. And all due to the fact that prices for skins of polar bears (especially on the black market) are simply fabulous. Therefore, some poachers are not stopped by those measures and laws that are aimed at preserving this animal for our descendants.
Human economic activities and global warming, due to which the ice cover of the Arctic decreases, has an equally destructive effect on the number of polar bears.
Interesting Polar Bear Facts:
- In photographs taken under ultraviolet light, the polar bear’s coat appears black.
- The polar bear is a warm-blooded animal. Its body temperature reaches 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes it difficult for the predator
to move quickly. Prolonged running can lead to overheating of the body.
- International Polar Bear Day is celebrated on February 27.
- One of the symbols of the state of Alaska is the polar bear.