The bears of the winter, Polar bears are one of the most iconic and well-known carnivores of the world. Whether you have seen them in countless movies, series, documentaries of from a certain world-famous beverage companies commercial, everyone can identify a polar bear.
The largest land carnivore in the world, these beautiful predators sit atop the food chain in the biologically rich Arctic. A true display of adaptation, polar bears are made for the ice.
Polar Bear’s Habitat
As stated above, polar bears call the sea ice, home. Polar bears use the sea ice as a source for resting and feeding. The polar bear can only be found in the Arctic. There are 5 countries in the Arctic where these deadly hunters can be found: U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Norway (Svalbard), Canada and Greenland.
Like almost all animals, polar bears also have a range in which they roam, hunt, discover, and rest. Since the sea ice is vast and ever changing, a polar bears range can be gigantic, exponentially greater than any other species of bear. Only two things go into determining the range of a polar bear: Quality of the sea ice and availability of their seal prey.
With the rising temperatures on land and sea and the decreasing sea ice in the Arctic, the polar bears have lost a lot of ground and prey. Human effect on global warming and general human expansion has reduced the habitat of the polar bears and many other arctic animals significantly.
Polar Bear’s Diet
The most aggressive hunter of the Arctic, polar bears are known to be great hunters. They apply multiple tactics to feed. These tactics include: Still hunting, Stalking on land, Aquatic Stalk, and Stalking birth lairs. Each tactic is used to hunt the polar bears favorite meal, the seal.
The polar bear can and does feed on several animals but they depend on the high-fat content of seal fat the most. Polar bears eat both ringed and bearded seals across their range. A polar bear has a stomach that can hold up to 15% to 20% of its body weight.
The protein and fat content of the seal blubber and skin provides the polar bear with the necessary energy as polar bears can assimilate 97% of the fat and 84% of the protein it consumes. Polar bear needs 2 kg of fat per day to survive
Polar Bear’s Anatomy
First thing that differentiates the polar bear from any other bear is the white coat. The polar bear coat varies from pure white to yellowish light brown by season. Male polar bears (350-650 kilograms & 2.5 to 3 meters) can grow to two to three times the size of female polar bears (150-250 kilograms & 1.8 to 2.5 meters). The largest polar bear ever recorded came in at 1,002 kilograms and 3.7 meters.
Another great adaptation of the polar bear is its large paws. These paws serve the purpose of snow shoes and flippers, allowing the bear to easily maneuver on the ice and water.
Polar Bear’s Behavior & Life Cycle
Polar bears communicate through body language, vocalizations, and scent making. Each motion or sound made by these bears have a specific purpose and goal. For example, loud roars or growls are used to communicate anger while wagging of the head from side to side signals that a bear wants to play. Cubs like their parents have their own sounds they use to signal different emotions.
Polar bears use most of their day to sleep or rest. When it comes to social life, the connection of mother and cubs is quite close, while mating couples stay together for a week mating multiple times. Breeding season takes place between March to June on the sea ice. Female polar bears only mate once every three years with a gestation period of about 8 months and a litter size of 1-4 cubs.
Cubs leave their mothers after 2.5 to 3 years, soon after that, both the male and female polar bears reach sexual maturity. The lifespan of a polar bear in the wild averages around 20-25 years, while the polar bears in captivity live to be around 30-40 years of age.