Polar Bear

[Ursus maritimus]

The Polar Bear's seemingly "white" coat consists of hollow hairs with no pigment. The fur only appears white by reflecting visible light. Its transparency allows sunlight to penetrate the bears black skin which can absorb heat. For further protection the polar bear has a 3-4 inch layer of fat on his back, thighs, and buttocks. Hair on the soles of the feet provide insulation, traction and silence. The polar bears build is less robust then that of the closely related brown bear with a more elongated neck and head. They are 8-11 ft. long and weigh 700-1400 lbs. with the males being considerably larger.

The most carnivorous of North American bears, the polar bear is a solitary, unsocial hunter capable of consuming 15 to 50 pounds of food in one meal. With excellent senses of hearing, sight and smell (up to 20 miles), this animal in his frozen arctic habitat stands at the top of the food chain. Polar bears possess tremendous strength and dexterity. They are able to pry food from kelp stems as well as knock out a beluga whale; quick enough to snatch lemming from the grass or strong enough to flip a 400 lb. seal into the air. They are excellent swimmers, often found 100 miles at sea.

Location: Animal Not Currently At Zoo

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Range

The range of the polar bear is northern Europe, Canada, Alaska and Greenland.


Habitat

The polar bear inhabits areas of annual ice that forms around shorelines of the continents and archipelagoes at the circumpolar Arctic.


Conservation Status
Vulnerable
Primary Threats
Human Wildlife Coexistence, Climate Change
Gestation

Gestation in polar bears is from195 to 265 days.


Litter

Polar bears can have litters of 1 to 4 cubs, but most usually twins.


Behavior

Polar bears are basically nomadic. They are the most carnivorous North American bears capable of consuming 15-50 lbs. of food in one meal. With excellent senses of hearing, sight and smell (up to 20 miles), this animal in his frozen arctic habitat stands at the top of the food chain. Polar bears possess tremendous strength and dexterity. They are able to pry food from kelp stems as well as knock out a beluga whale; quick enough to snatch lemming from the grass or strong enough to flip a 400 lb. seal into the air. And, of course, they are excellent swimmers, often found 100 miles at sea.


Reproduction

Polar bears usually mate between March and June and den in the fall. If the female is in peak condition (with enough stored fat) when she goes into her winter den, the embryo will start to develop. If the female is not in peak condition, her body will reabsorb the embryo and not give birth that year. Cubs are born between December and January. Cubs are 12 to 14 inches long, and weigh a mere 21-25 oz. at birth. By the time the new family leaves the den in March or April the cubs, sustained in the interval on mother's milk (31% rich in fat), weigh about 25 lbs. Young are weaned as they reach their second birthday, but are not mature until they reach age five or six. Cubs will remain with their mother for up to two and a half years. Median life expectancy is 11.5 years.


Wild Diet

Blubber (not meat) of arctic ringed seals, arctic fox, narwhal, birds eggs, carrion, berries, bearded , spotted and ribbon seals.


Zoo Diet


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