Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Polar Bears - The Key Facts & Figures

Polar Bears - The Key Facts And Figures

The polar bear is an endangered species of bear that lives in the far north on the polar pack ice and ranges as far afield as Canada, Denmark, Russia and Norway. 

It is the largest land predator alive today, with 25,000 to 40,000 roaming throughout the Arctic region. 

Female polar bears reach maturity at roughly five years of age and their offspring are comparatively much smaller than human infants, weighing only around a pound at birth.

They usually give birth to two live young which spend the first winter months of their lives in a den dug out of a snowdrift. 

They emerge in the spring and within a year can grow to man-size if supplied with an abundance of food. 

The average male bear will grow to weigh over 1400 pounds and stand ten feet tall. The female of the species weighs in at 650 pounds and stands at a height of seven feet tall.

A fact about polar bears that you might not know is that their fur is not white, but that each hair is a colourless hollow tube which reflects sunlight during daylight hours. 

This serves to keep the bear warm and because the coat is oily it does not mat when wet, making it easy to shake off excess water and ice that may form after swimming.

Polar bears eat mainly seals which they hunt on the pack ice, either by waiting for them to surface at their breathing holes in the ice or by stalking them. 

On occasion they will hunt beneath the ice for their prey. They have slightly webbed front feet to assist them with forward motion in the water, while they steer with their powerful back legs.

Their only predator is man. Men are starting to mine in the arctic for oil and coal, encroaching on their natural habitat, making food more difficult to find.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Watching Polar Bears in the Arctic

Watching Polar Bears in the Arctic

Near the very top of the world sits the northernmost region of the Arctic. Polar holidays to the area that focus on Polar Bear watching will take you into some of the cold and often isolated lands that the Arctic encompasses, such as parts of Canada, Finland, The United States, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Russia.

To head to this frozen, northernmost part of the planet requires a lot of preparation and planning, but seeing the polar animals in their natural habitats makes a trip to the Arctic unique and unforgettable.

The Polar Bear is largely native within the Arctic Circle and can be found living in some of the coldest and most unforgiving climates.

Its native habitat revolves around the cold waters near the "Arctic Ring of Life" which is an area comprised of the Arctic inter-island archipelagos and the sea-ice covering the Continental Shelf.

Polar holidays to locate and observe these large, white bears can reinforce the popular image of their cute and cuddly nature; but do not be fooled, the Polar Bear is the largest land carnivore and is also the world's largest bear, a title it shares with the Kodiak Bear.

As one of the largest carnivores, the Polar Bear's diet consists almost wholly of seals, and polar holidays to observe these magnificent bears in their natural habitat will possibly involve watching them hunt their prey.

The Polar Bear hunts the seals by using their highly evolved sense of smell to detect the breath of the seals, who pop their noses into the air at ice holes to breathe.

The bears creep to the holes and wait until they smell their target breathing, then reach in and pull out the seal with their claws. On your polar holidays you may also have the opportunity to see the Polar Bears stalk the seals on the surface of the ice.

Stalking, for the Polar Bear, is a long process that involves creeping closer and closer to the seals without being noticed.

Sometimes, though rare, the bears have been known to cover the black of their noses with their paws to make themselves as fully camouflaged as possible.

One of the most beloved images captured on polar holidays are photographs of Polar Bear cubs.

Cubs are born between November and February; if you time your trip correctly to coincide with the post-birth season in the spring and summer months, you will stand an excellent chance of seeing the young cubs coming out of the dens with their mothers for the first time.

For the first few weeks the mother and, usually, two cubs will stay near the den, after which, they begin the long trek to the ice fields where the mother can hunt seals.

The cubs stay with their very affectionate mothers until they are close to two and a half years of age before they are sent off on their own to begin their independent lives.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you're looking for polar holidays, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to polar holidays and other spectacular regions on Earth.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Can We Do to Help Save the Polar Bears?

What Can We Do to Help Save the Polar Bears

It's true - if things continue as they are right now, our children will grow up in an era where there are no polar bears. The Arctic is melting.

The rate at which it is warming is twice that of the rest of the world. The more ice that melts, the more dark ocean that gets exposed, which attracts more heat, and speeds up the melting even more.

Polar bears need the ice to survive. With no ice, polar bears have no platform to stand on while they hunt seal.

Polar bears are not efficient land hunters, although that is unfortunately where they are heading.

Inefficient land hunting skills will lead to starving cubs and inadequate reproduction numbers.

This is not just a sentimental statement aimed at making you feel bad for the polar bears - this is real. The sad part is that it is our fault, and the effects of global warming will be more far reaching than polar bears - it will effect us all.

Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and petroleum-operated vehicles are probably the largest contributors. The US produces more greenhouse gases than any other nation in the world.

So what can we do?

Anything and everything. To begin with, it would probably be beneficial to stop fishing in the Arctic to protect the few polar bears that are left.

Renewable energy sources are imperative. Renewable energy will lower our greenhouse gas emissions AND allow us to avoid drilling in the Arctic and further disrupting the ecosystem.

We also need to start taking smaller measures at home. Each and every one of us. Change your light bulbs to CFLs. Walk or carpool when you can. Recycle. Reuse. Cut down on your waste.

One simple way to do this is to start using reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags and begin composting some of your garbage.

You may feel that you're only one person and can't really make a difference. However, the impact comes when all of us start doing little things to help the environment.

We've got some momentum going with this green movement - let's take it to the next level...if not for ourselves, for the 100% completely innocent polar bears who are now suffering from our indiscretions.

David Kraft is a freelance author that writes about a variety of subjects. He supports eco-friendly living and green products such as reusable shopping bags. For more information about eco-friendly living, visit his reusable bags site.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Polar Bear Cubs - The Start of A Polar Bear's Life

Polar Bear Cubs - The Start of A Polar Bear's Life 

Polar bear cubs start their lives as cute and cuddly youngsters.
This is in stark contrast to the majestic kings of the Arctic they will become if they survive to maturity.
Female polar bears have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight (usually at age five or six). Females in the Low Arctic wean their cubs as they approach their second birthday, while those in the High Arctic, where conditions are more a lot more harsh and demanding, care for their cubs an additional year
Polar bear cubs are most often born in pairs, but sometimes the litter contains three cubs and possibly only one cub. They're born between November through January in a den. These snow dens are known as "maternity dens" and are made to protect the newborn cubs from the freezing Arctic temperature extremes.
At birth, the cubs are 30 to 35 centimeters (12 to 14 inches) in length and weigh a little more than half a kilogram (about a pound) . Having no senses, during their first few vulnerable weeks of life, they nurse most of the time and stay as close as possible to their mother to keep themselves warm. The female has special crevices within which the cubs can get the warmth they need to survive.
Polar bear cubs are born small and helpless, with their eyes closed and their fur is very fine at birth, making the cubs look hairless. They get their first glimpses of their mothers after they open their eyes sometime during the first month.
The cubs grow very quickly while they're in the den, thanks to the calories in their mother's rich milk, which has a fat content of roughly 31% . Cubs often lie on there mothers belly to nurse while their mother sits back and puts her head back and seems to slightly move back and forth as if to rock the cubs. The cubs begin walking inside the den at roughly two months. During this time, the cubs still spend about 85% of their time in the den, sleeping there at night.
When she finally emerges with her cubs, most often in late March or April, she leads them to the sea ice so she can break her long fast by hunting seals. Cubs begin eating solid food at this time which is at approximately three to four months of age.
The cubs usually stay with their mother until they're 2 1/2 years old, although some bears in the Hudson Bay area wean their young at age 1 1/2 . When the cubs reach a point where they have suitable strength and coordination, and when they are able to walk well and respond to their mother's motion and sound commands such as stay or come, they are ready to leave their mother and the den.
During the time that the cubs are with their mother, they must learn how to hunt and survive in one of the Earth's harshest environments by watching their mother. A mother bear's success at hunting seals directly influences their well-being and determines whether or not the cubs will live or die once they are on their own. A mother will sometimes carry her cubs on her back through areas of deep snow or water if conditions are too hazardous for the youngster.
Once the cubs are weaned, either the mother bear or the male chases the cubs away so that they can begin life on their own.
Polar Bear Cubs and Environmental Issues
As you can see, Polar bear cubs are very vulnerable during their first few months. This period is the time during which most of the deaths from global warming and pollution take place.
Mother bears are feeding on polluted fish and seals. The pollution is stored in their massive body fat and when they have their offspring, they pass the pollution on to the young via there high-fat mother's milk. Often their cub's immune systems are too weak to fend off the toxins and the resulting complications, so they die.
Global climate change is shortening the time that bears have to breed and this means that they put off having their children until too far into the season. So, fewer bears are being born.
This double whammy is causing Polar bear populations to decrease dramatically.
One study estimated that only 43 percent of polar bear cubs in the southern Beaufort Sea survived their first year during the year 2000, compared to a 65 percent survival rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Clearly, something must be done to maintain polar bear reproduction at a rate that ensures the survival of the species.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Polar Bear - Alterations In Sea Ice Threatens The Species

Polar Bear - Alterations In Sea Ice Threatens The Species

Polar Bear adaptation to the cold and unforgiving Northern climate is one of nature's marvels. The dynamic sea ice, where polar bear live, is one of the harshest and most unforgiving climates on the globe.

It's only in modern evolutionary cycle that bears accommodated to arctic sea life. It started about the time of the Ice Age, in the northern seas, when the seals needed to breathe and reproduce at the water's surface. From this, the seals placed a rich year-round food source within reach of a population of brown bears, who then set out to live on the ice, changing into something similar to the polar bear of today, around 100,000 years ago.

Weighing about 330 to 1,760 pounds, the length of the polar bear's body is around 6.6 to 10 feet. The male body is usually heavier than the female. The polar bear, similar to the brown bear, is big and heavyset. It has an long neck and small head. Its fur, typically white, sometimes appears yellow, due to oxidation.

A polar bear has black skin, which aids it's adjustment to the Arctic temperature, absorbing and holding heat from the sunlight. It is decidedly well attired for the weather with a layer of fat more than 4 inches thick, providing good insulation. The thick fur on its feet (its foot is about 9 inches wide and 12 inches long) offers warmth and traction. As each foot is so huge, it acts as a handy snowshoe.

It adjusts well to swimming with its broad feet that serve as paddles and when swimming underwater it lays the little ears flat for protection, and its nostrils close under water. It paddles at about 6 and one-half miles per hour --forepaws only, hind feet trailing--and can stay submerged for about 2 minutes. The hairs of its waterproof coat are hollow which is a good insulator and increases the bear's buoyancy while swimming.

A polar bear has an excellent sense of smell, sensing prey at a distance of about 20 miles. While little is known about its sense of touch (its eyesight and hearing is acute), a polar bear is able to manipulate various objects with great dexterity.

With canine teeth larger and malariform teeth sharper than those of other bears, the polar bear is the most carnivorous North American bear.

A polar bear inhabits Arctic islands, sea ice, and water and continental coastlines. It favors the sea ice habitat, with water channels or cracks through the ice, next to continental coastlines or islands. A lot of polar bears spend part of the year on land, although in warmer climates a bear might become isolated. Most pregnant females spend the autumn and winter on land in maternity dens.

A polar bear moves throughout the year within single home ranges, which tend to be larger than for other mammal species because of the changes in sea ice from year to year and even season to season. Small home ranges (19,000 to 23,000 miles) can be observed near Canadian Arctic Islands, while bigger home ranges can be found in the Bering or Chukchi Sea regions. The polar bear stays in the same area during the same time of year. A polar bear can travel 19 miles or more per day for several days, although some are capable of much more than that. One can only hope that polar bear adaptation will continue, as their habitat area becomes increasingly smaller and the pressures of civilization continue to encroach on the the natural homes where the polar bear dwell.

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