International Polar Bear Day 2017

International Polar Bear Day 2017

Posted by Connor Whelan on 27th Feb 2017

February the 27th marks International Polar Bear Day, and this annual event which is organised by Polar Bears International was created to raise awareness about the effects that warmer temperatures are having on the world’s oceans and as a result the global polar bear population. These bears are symbolic of the issues global warming is causing to animal life all around the world and that is why on International Polar Bear Day we wanted to raise awareness of the plight of these bears and help you to learn a little more about them.

Polar Bear Habitats – Where Do Polar Bears Live?

Polar Bear Habitat

As you will well know, polar bears live in some of the world’s coldest locations, and this means that they can be found in the countries that form a ring around the Arctic Circle. Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States (Alaska) all play host to populations of the bears, and these snow covered land masses provide the perfect habitat for the polar bear to live in. In the winter months, temperatures in the Arctic are usually as low as -34 degrees Celsius, and they can go as low as -69 degrees Celsius, so the bear’s thick coats come in very handy.

What Do Polar Bears Eat?

Polar Bear Eating

A huge percentage of a polar bears diet comes from the seals which frequent the waters of the Arctic. If their food supply is plentiful then the bears will only eat the seal blubber, and this high calorie meal helps them to build up their own fat reserves which keeps them healthy between feeding sessions and helps them to maintain their body temperature which is very important in such harsh conditions.

Polar bears need approximately 2kg of fat each day, and this will provide them wide around 8 days of energy. However, if a seal hunt is not going well then polar bears will adapt their eating habits and will devour anything they can get their paws on including fish, eggs, vegetation, reindeer, birds, and even human rubbish.

Do Polar Bears Hibernate?

Polar Bear Den

Polar bears do not hibernate like other bears do and they remain active throughout the entire year. These bears do go into a state in the winter months which is known as a “walking hibernation.” This state enables the bears to maintain their body temperature whilst decreasing their metabolic rate and recycling the proteins they need to survive. By entering this state the bears are able to survive winter when food is scarce.

What Are The Polar Bears Adaptations?

Polar Bear Paw

In an environment which is as harsh as the Arctic, polar bears have had to adapt in many ways to ensure that they are able to survive. Some of their adaptations include:

  • A thick layer of fur – This enables to keep warm and aids their camouflage against the snow
  • Fur on the soles of their feet – This gives them better grip on ice and provides insulation
  • Small ears – These help to reduce heat loss
  • A thick layer of blubber – This helps to store energy and acts as another source of insulation
  • Extremely sharp claws and teeth – This helps with catching and eating prey

Baby Polar Bears

Baby Polar Bear

Polar bear cubs begin life in the shelter of a den which their mother has built into the snow. Despite the fact that the dens are built into the snow, they are a lot warmer than the outside world as they provide shelter from the wind, cold, and predators. The cubs spend the majority of their early childhood inside the dens, and they will typically nurse for 12-18 weeks. After about 3 months the young bears are ready to venture outside and begin learning how to hunt by watching their mother.

Are Polar Bears Endangered?

Polar bears are currently classed as vulnerable which means that they are in need of our help. The number of these ice bears remaining in the wild is anywhere between 22,000 – 31,000 and this number is so broad due to the difficulty people have had in tracking the bears over such a vast habitat. Polar bears are coming under threat from a variety of sources. They are:

  • Climate Change – As the global temperatures continue to increase, the summer sea ice in the Arctic is receding at an alarming rate. This means that the bears must move longer distances to stay with the rapidly receding ice, and hunting becomes a lot harder due to a lack of ice to hunt on.
  • Human Conflict – As the lack of ice is forcing the bears further and further inland, they are coming into contact with humans on a more regular basis and when this happens things often end badly.
  • Industrial Impacts – Offshore petroleum exploration is increasing at an alarming rate and this means that the polar bears are being affected in ways that they were not in previous decades. One oil spill would prove fatal to many animals in the local food chain including the polar bear, and the noise that is generated from these oil explorations can cause disturbances and problems.
  • Hunting – Illegal hunting of polar bears is still an occurrence in many places around the world, and although there are strict rules in place in many Arctic areas the illegal hunting of these bears still appears to be happening.

Polar Bear Fun Facts

Polar Bear Facts

  • Polar bears actually have black skin and their fur is transparent, but it appears white as it reflects the snow!
  • The bears can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and can even reach speeds of 10 miles per hour in the water.
  • Male polar bears can weigh up to 680kg.
  • They have an incredible sense of smell, and they can detect a seal from up to almost a mile away!
  • These bears have been known to swim up to 60 miles in search of food, and they do not rest through this whole expedition.

Polar Bears International are inviting everyone to take part in their thermostat challenge this year, so if you want to help reduce the effect of global warming then turn your thermostat down a degree or two!


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