Saturday, December 25, 2010

Polar Bear

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I was going to write about Reindeer for the holidays... but then I remembered that I had already talked about them a while back. So instead we'll discuss another creature of the North Pole, the aptly named Polar Bear.

The Polar Bear (Ursus martimus) is one of the largest land carnivores on the entire planet, with adult males weighing up to 1,700lbs (771kg). They are perfectly adapted for a cold weather environment, sporting think fur everywhere, including on their feet. The fur is white to camouflage them in the snow, but underneath their skin is black, which allows them to soak up heat more quickly. They are also excellent swimmers.

Though they are technically omnivores, Polar Bears feed mostly on other animals. Seals make up a large part of their diet, and are hunted by waiting on the ice near breathing holes where Seals surface for air. They do also feed on carrion, fish, birds, and some vegetation. Some bears will travel thousands of miles in a year while tracking food.

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Polar Bears "hibernate", but not in the true sense of the word. Their metabolism slows, but they do not go through a full drop rate in heart rate or body temperature. Female bears dig dens in snow and give birth in these dens, typically to two cubs. These cubs will remain with their mother for two years or more, learning how to hunt and survive. Males have nothing to do with the raising of cubs, and will even kill cubs.

Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable, and their numbers are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. Warming in the Arctic and loss of pack ice has limited their ability to hunt, placing the population on a decline.

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