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Polar Bear

Polar bears or Ursus maritimus, also referred as white bears, northern bears, or sea bears, is a large bear due to its big and heavy size. It is found throughout the Arctic surrounding the North Pole. Their fur and thick blubber is like an insulator against the cold, and this is the main reason they are able to live in such chilling conditions. Their name Ursus maritimus means maritime bear, which leads to some beliefs that these are marine mammals.

There are six different populations of polar bears, namely Wrangel Island and western Alaska, northern Alaska, the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard-Franz Josef Land, and Central Siberia. However, their range is limited by the availability of sea ice, which is used as the major platform to hunt seal by these species.

Polar bear is large like brown bear and is twice the weight of a Siberian tiger. The weight of a male polar bear ranges between 300 to 800 kg, while a female weighs from 150 to 300 kg, and the weight of a newborn cub ranges from 600 to 700 grams. The height of an adult is about 1.6 m up to the shoulders and the males are 2.5 m long from the neck to the tip of tail, while females are about 1.8 to 2 m long.

The forepaws are broad and are used as perfect paddles while swimming, as these are believed to be excellent swimmers. Polar bear are capable of hunting both on land and in sea. The soles of all the four paws are furred to provide insulation against cold while walking on ice. The skin of polar bears is actually black, while the fur is actually clear, and the white appearance of the species is due to the reflection by the clear fur.

Mating usually occurs in late winter or early spring. The mating lasts for a little, i.e., around 3 days and the gestation period including delayed implantation is about 8 months. The cubs are born in November to January, while the mother is hibernating in the den, which she prepared by digging deep in the ice for hibernation during October. A litter may be of 1 to 4 cubs, but usually there are two cubs, which are small as compared to other cubs and are blind, which will open their eyes after one month. The cubs stay with their mothers in the den about three months and in April they emerge from their dens. Mothers provide all the parental care to the cubs while their stay. Before being independent the cubs remain with their mother for about 2 to 3 years.

Except for breeding and during the nursing of cubs, polar bears are solitary animals and they may attack other bears for food. Polar bears eat as much as they can in the summer so as to sustain while hibernation in winters; and the mothers will be surviving only on the fat they had, along with their little cubs. The polar bear mostly rely on seals; especially ringed seals to feed themselves. However, anything they can kill can be their food, such as birds, and shellfish, etc.

Further Reading

Polar Bears International:
http://www.polarbearsinternational.org

The Smithsonian Institution's North American Mammals website:
http://www.mnh2.si.edu/education/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=418

Arkive
http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Ursus_maritimus/more_info.html

Animal Diversity Web
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ursus_maritimus.html

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