Polar bears are some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Their awesome size and colour (white) makes them a formidable sight, while their natural habitat is in the Arctic Circle range stretching down to Newfoundland giving rise to some concern with global warming creeping up on us along with the melting of the ice caps. We would be sorry to lose the largest bear we have on our planet so must do all we can to ensure that this does not happen. The polar bear becoming extinct would be unthinkable.
Polar Bear Facts
The polar bear is the largest land carnivore plus is also a marine mammal that spends the majority of its time in the sea. The Arctic ice is very important to the polar bear as it is unable to hunt, feed and live without it. The adult male or boar as it is known can weigh anything up to 1500 pounds with the female or sow as she is known coming in at around half that weight. The polar bears body has adapted over the years to suit the climate in the Arctic and also to enable it to hunt for food and negotiate the ice with ease.
Seals are the main meal of the polar bear, while they hunt for their prey from the edge of the ice. In the past, hunting was the main threat to the polar bear but with international controls the situation was reversed. It is thought that there are approximately 25,000 polar bears worldwide. The largest polar bear to live is said to have been 11 feet tall which is an awesome height and must have been a magnificent spectacle to see. The polar bear has forty two teeth. This is probably due to its carnivorous nature, while their blubber and fur serve as tremendous insulation against the cold climate they live in.
Polar bears have a beautiful white fur coat that after time ages to a yellowish hue. The male has long hair on its forelegs that is said to attract female polar bears, while they moult gradually between May and August. Their superb sense of smell comes in really useful as they can smell a seal from almost a mile away, while its sight and hearing are pretty acute too. These magnificent creatures although huge and heavy can run at speeds of up to 25mph which is incredibly speedy for such a large animal.
Fortunately for the polar bear the Arctic has thousands of seals which are the staple diet of the bear. The polar bear will locate a breathing hole in the ice that the seals use and patiently wait for the seal to surface for air. When the seal pops up and breathes out the bear pounces with its paw and drags the seal out of the hole onto the ice. It’s not a pretty sight as the polar bear crushes the head of the seal between its mighty jaws but this is nature at its best. Polar bears also catch seals as they sit on the ice stalking them from behind or raid their holes in the snow where mothers have their pups. Once supper has ended the polar bear then cleans off in the snow.
Polar bears will also on rare occasions attack walruses to feed or even whales as they come up for air. They do not attack fully grown adult whales but only Baluga whales that are much smaller in size similar to the size of a walrus.
Global Warming and the Polar Bear
Polar bears do not live any longer than twenty five years but if we fail to recognise how they are affected by Global Warming they will be with us for a far shorter period or maybe not at all. Evidence of the effects are, in population sizes decreasing, scarcity of food and fewer hunting opportunities plus swimming conditions more hazardous due to sea ice platforms moving further apart. Climate change is melting the ice resulting in the possibility that two thirds of the polar bear population will disappear by 2050. This is a staggering fact that is also frightening. The further polar bears have to swim to reach ice floes the more worrying it becomes.
Places like Hudson Bay have no sea ice in the summer meaning polar bears in this region eat virtually nothing during this time. In a twenty year time frame the ice free period has increased by twenty days which is bad news for the polar bear. This extra twenty days reduces the seal hunting season by a vital three weeks. The ice is freezing later in the autumn and melting earlier in the spring too which is the main season for polar bears to hunt the newly born seal pups. The knock on effect to all this is that polar bears are losing weight which is reducing their fertility. The polar bear population in Hudson Bay is now down by 20%.
Sea ice platforms are retreating making it harder for the polar bears to hunt. Polar bears have to swim farther and in some cases they have been known to drown en route. All these facts result in polar bears going hungry as they are unable to hunt as easily. Some are even turning on young cubs eating them to survive.
Polar bears were listed as a threatened species in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act. This is mainly due to disappearance of sea ice which is essential for the polar bears survival. The protection given the polar bear under this declaration is however limited therefore they are very much still in grave danger of extinction in the future. How can we possibly let this magnificent creature fade away from our planet? Those of us who value all creatures will endeavour to protect the polar bear in any way we can. For more information on how you can help protect the polar bear visit the WWF website.