• Ellie

International Polar Bear Day

International Polar Bear Day falls on February 27th each year! Polar Bears are one of the most important mammals in the world and have been around for over 150,000 years. In honor of these spectacular animals we would like to explore some of their unique habits and adaptions!

Polar Bear Mamas and Babies

A mama polar bear and her babies, which are called cubs, are some of the closest mammal pairings. Polar bear mothers stay with their cubs for over 30 months. They can have up to four cubs at one time, but twins are most common. Feeding their young is sometimes hard due to the harsh arctic conditions they live in, but these strong mothers always find a way to feed their cubs.

Polar bear moms have three sets of nipples (6 nipples in total): two sets higher up on the chest and one set down below their belly button. This bottom set of nipples produces the colostrum that newborns need, but shuts off after a few days or weeks, forcing the young to nurse from the set closer to the mother’s head. Each cub feeds for about 18 months, some even longer!

Polar bears don’t hibernate, but mother bears live in dens while they raise their cubs. Mama bears dig a cave in the snow when they are nearly ready to give birth. The cubs are born in the den and the family stays there for four to five months. Their body heat inside the small cave helps keep everyone warm. During this time, the cubs are growing quickly on mom’s fat-rich breast milk, but mom doesn’t eat, drink or defecate. Polar bears have evolved one of the longest fasting periods of any animal!

The months spent with mom are the most important for a cub’s survival. Cubs will spend these years learning how to hunt from mom - and packing on the pounds! - to eventually reach the weight of a full-grown polar bear, between 300 and 800kg.

Polar Bears and Adaption

Polar bears are well adapted to survive in one of the harshest environments on our planet. As well as their thick fur, they have a layer of fat, called blubber, that insulates their bodies from the frosty air and near-freezing water. While polar bears look white, their skin is actually black, which helps them absorb the sun’s rays to keep warm. Their “white” fur is actually translucent (clear), which also helps absorb sunlight and its warmth.

Climate change has had a dangerous effect on polar bears’ habitats. Their arctic environment is slowly melting away, making it harder for polar bears to find food and care for their young. As our planet gets warmer ice breaks up sooner and this shortens their hunting season. With a shorter hunting season females have a tougher time building up the stored fat that they need to survive.

Unique Polar Bear Facts

Here are some facts you may not know about polar bears:

  • They have built-in socks! Stiff fur on the sole of each foot keeps the polar bear from slipping on ice, and also muffles the sound of the bear’s approach when sneaking up on a meal.

  • Polar bears are the largest and longest species of bear. They are the largest carnivore (meat eater) that lives on land. Male polar bears can measure up to 10 feet (3 meters) when standing on their hind legs and can weigh up to 1500 lb) (680 kg).

  • Scientists believe that the polar bear evolved from a common brown bear ancestor thousands of years ago.

  • Polar Bears clean themselves by rolling around in the snow, and they cool off by rolling in the snow or taking a dip in chilly waters.

  • Polar bears are found in countries that ring the Arctic Circle — Canada, the US, Greenland, Russia, and Norway.

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