Polar bear $30/month
National Geographic Article excerpts
Criteria for Grants
Ecology of the Arctic
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) also called White Bear, Water Bear, Sea Bear, or Ice Bear (Ursus maritimus, formerly Thalarctos maritimus), semiaquatic northern bear, family Ursidae, found throughout Arctic regions, generally on drifting oceanic ice floes. The polar bear is sought for its trophy value and (especially by Eskimo) for its hide, tendons, fat, and flesh; the liver, however, is inedible and often poisonous because of its high vitamin A content. Since 1973 the polar bear has been protected by an international agreement that allows hunting of polar bears only by local populations using traditional weapons. Camouflaged against ice and snow by its whitish fur, the polar bear is a swift and wide-ranging traveler. It swims very well and is often found many miles from land or ice packs. The polar bear stalks and captures its primary prey, the seal, whose southward migrations it may follow as far south as the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada and the mouth of the Amur River in Russia. It supplements its diet with fish, seaweed, grass, birds, caribou, and the occasional stranded whale. The male polar bear, which is usually larger than the female, ranges in weight from about 410 to 720 kg (about 900 to 1,600 pounds). It grows to about 1.6 m (5.3 feet) at the shoulder and 2.2–2.5 m in length (also having a tail of 7–12 cm [3–4 inches]). The hairy soles of the polar bear's broad feet protect and insulate it from the cold and also facilitate movement across the ice. An elongated neck supports its relatively small head. The polar bear is usually shy but is dangerous when confronted or attacked. One to four (usually two) cubs are born in winter, in a den of ice or snow, after a gestation period of 240–270 days. Cubs weigh about 1 kg at birth and remain with their mother for 10 months to 2 years.
Polar Bear Status Report
Polar bears are a potentially threatened species that live in the
circumpolar north. They are animals that know no boundaries. They pad
across the ice from
About the Polar Bear
Polar Bear Cubs
Sources: Polar Bear by Downs Matthews (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1993); Polar Bears by Ian Stirling (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1988); Campbell Elliott, regional wildlife manager, Manitoba.
Polar Bear I.Q.
Success at hunting seals may not be measured on a standard I. Q. test, but scientist Alison Ames considers it a sign of the polar bear's brain power.
As part of a study funded by the Universities
Federation for Animal Welfare,
Her conclusion: the great white bears are just as smart as apes.
"This is learned behavior and reveals that
polar bears are very intelligent animals,"
Because of the polar bear's intelligence,
Polar Bear Fur
speculation over this discrepancy produced a theory, now widely
repeated as fact, that polar bear hair acts like a fiber optic
guide to conduct ultraviolet light to the skin.
Sources: Lords of the Arctic by Richard C. Davids (Macmillan Publishing, 1982); Polar Bears by Ian Stirling (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1988); Daniel W. Koon, "Is Polar Bear Hair Fiber Optic?", Applied Optics, Vol 37, page 3198.
The Sea Bear
Polar bears live year round near arctic waters hunting seal and other animals, rarely coming on land except on islands and rocky points. In winter they hunt along the Arctic shelfs looking for tasty seals, fish, and even humans! Their white coats provide camouflage in the ice and snow which make them almost invisible as they stalk their prey.
In winter, when they are far from land they search for breathing holes made by seals. When the seal comes up for air, the polar bear will kill it and flip it out of the water with a single blow of its great clawed paw! Polar bears are very dangerous, and grow to a huge size and weigh as much as small automobile (1000 pounds). They have longer legs than other bears and large furry feet. These big feet help to distribute their weight as they walk on thin ice in the arctic waters. Polar bears are strong swimmers and can stay submerged for two minutes at a time. Their fur is made of hollow hairs which trap air and help to insulate them in the frigid waters.
In November polar bears retire to dens dug out of the snow or permafrost. The females remain until the spring when they emerge with one or two cubs who stay with them for the next year and a half. The males spend a shorter time in the dens and may be seen out and about at any time of the year.
19th Century Naturalist
"The Eskimo of Saint Lawrence Island and the American coast are well supplied with firearms which they use when bear-hunting. In winter, north of the straits, the bears often become thin and very savage from lack of food.
A number of Eskimo on the Alaskan coast show frightful scars obtained in contests with them in winter. One man, who came on board the Corwin, had the entire skin and flesh torn from one side of his head and face including the eye and ear, yet had escaped and recovered. One incident was related to me which occurred near Point Hope during the winter of 1880-'81. Men went out from Point Hope during one of the long winter nights to attend to their seal nets, which were set through holes in the ice. While at work near each other, one of the men heard a bear approaching over the frosty snow, and having no weapon but a small knife, and the bear being between him and the shore, he threw himself upon his back on the ice and waited. The bear came up and for a few moments smelled about the man from head to foot, and finally pressed his cold nose against the man's lips and nose and sniffed several times; each time the terrified Eskimo held his breath until, as he afterwards said, his lungs nearly burst. The bear suddenly heard the other man at work, and listening for a moment he started towards him at a gallop, while the man he left sprang to his feet and ran for his life for the village and reached it safely. At , when the sun had risen a little above the horizon, a large party went out to the spot and found the bear finishing his feast upon the other hunter and soon dispatched him. Cases similar to this occur occasionally al1 along the coast where the bear is found in winter."