What Is A Polar Bear?
Polar bears are considered one of the most attractive and powerful predators on the planet. They do not usually fear humans, and spend their time roaming the Arctic ice sheets and coastal waters. They have a strong swimming ability, using their large webbed paws to paddle.
These animals live in one of Earth’s coldest and harshest environments – depending on thick, insulated fur and a warm layer of fat. The layer of blubber that is found beneath the bur’s fur provides the animal with both buoyancy and insulation. The animal is an excellent swimmer, and are regularly sighted hundreds of kilometres from land.
The fur of the polar bear even grows on the bottom of their paws, and protects them from the cold surface (while also providing a strong grip). The coat of the polar bear is generally stark white, and offers effective camouflage within the surrounding ice and snow. One fact that is commonly overlooked is that underneath their fur, the polar bears have black skin. The cubs of polar bears will usually live with their mothers for a little over two years, learning the necessary survival skills.
The polar bear lives a somewhat solitary adult life, except during times of breeding or cub rearing. In order to build sufficient fat reserves for the denning period, the pregnant polar bears will tend to eat a lot during the summer months. Polar bears are considered highly dependant on the older, stable pack ice that is found within the arctic region. On this ice, they spend a majority of their time, whether they are:
The primary prey for polar bears is the seal. Rings seals are considered the most abundant seal within the polar region. Rings seals have a thick layer of blubber, and maintain an average length of 124 centimetres. If the opportunity presents itself, polar bears have been known to consume the carcasses of other prey (i.e. dead whales). Polar bears hunt seals through two core methods:
- Waiting for the seal to surface (to breathe) at openings; which occurs roughly every ten minutes. Polar bears locate these breathing holes using their keen sense of smell; and then attack the seal once they surface.
- Stalking the seals that are relaxing on the ice; taking advantage of their sleep-wake rhythms. The bears crawl on the ice and pounce on the seal before it has a chance to respond or escape back into the water.
Ice is essential part of the polar bear hunting process; and provides the necessary access to their main prey. Essentially, the life of a polar bear involves a cycle of feasting and fasting. It is interesting to note that polar bears can eat as much as 100 pounds of blubber in a single sitting. As the ice floes retreat in the summer months, polar bears tend to follow the ice; staying with their food source. Overall, the polar bear is an opportunistic hunter, and will always be alert to other food sources (i.e. vegetation, walruses and geese).