[43][211], For the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, polar bears have long played an important cultural and material role. Polar bears injured in fights or accidents may either die from their injuries, or become unable to hunt effectively, leading to starvation. [66] The hollow guard hairs of a polar bear coat were once thought to act as fiber-optic tubes to conduct light to its black skin, where it could be absorbed; however, this hypothesis was disproved by a study in 1998. [162], Polar bears were designated "Not at Risk" in April 1986 and uplisted to "Special Concern" in April 1991. [10], Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species. The permit process required that the bear be taken from an area with quotas based on sound management principles. As a carnivore, which feeds largely upon fish-eating carnivores, the polar bear ingests large amounts of vitamin A that is stored in their livers. [131] Bacterial leptospirosis and Morbillivirus have been recorded. Polar bears are able to produce water through the metabolism of fats found in seal blubber,[50] and are therefore found primarily along the perimeter of the polar ice pack, rather than in the Polar Basin close to the North Pole where the density of seals is low.[51]. [33][34][35] One alleged fossil subspecies has been identified: Ursus maritimus tyrannus, which became extinct during the Pleistocene. Under those restrictions, permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service were required to import sport-hunted polar bear trophies taken in hunting expeditions in Canada. The polar bear travels long distances over vast desolate expanses, generally on drifting oceanic ice floes, searching for seals, its primary prey. [117], Courtship and mating take place on the sea ice in April and May, when polar bears congregate in the best seal hunting areas. [55] When pregnant, however, females can weigh as much as 500 kg (1,100 lb). The late spring hunting season ends for polar bears when the ice begins to melt and break up, and they fast or eat little during the summer until the sea freezes again. [31] As predicted by Allen's rule for a northerly animal, the legs are stocky and the ears and tail are small. [126][127] As of 2006, in Alaska, 42% of cubs were reaching 12 months of age, down from 65% in 1991. The family remains in the den until mid-February to mid-April, with the mother maintaining her fast while nursing her cubs on a fat-rich milk. [26] A comparison of the nuclear genome of polar bears with that of brown bears revealed a different pattern, the two forming genetically distinct clades that diverged approximately 603,000 years ago,[27] although the latest research is based on analysis of the complete genomes (rather than just the mitochondria or partial nuclear genomes) of polar and brown bears, and establishes the divergence of polar and brown bears at 400,000 years ago. [73], The relationship between ringed seals and polar bears is so close that the abundance of ringed seals in some areas appears to regulate the density of polar bears, while polar bear predation in turn regulates density and reproductive success of ringed seals. [159] In September 2015, the polar bear range states agreed upon a "circumpolar action plan" describing their conservation strategy for polar bears. Why did that juvenile bearded seal haul out, when it was risky to do so? Did the sea ice conditions play a part? [178] Since 1994, hundreds of sport-hunted polar bear trophies have been imported into the U.S.[179] In 2015, the U.S. [54] Adult females are roughly half the size of males and normally weigh 150–250 kg (330–550 lb), measuring 1.8–2.4 metres (5 ft 11 in–7 ft 10 in) in length. [63] The guard hair is 5–15 cm (2–6 in) over most of the body. [90] The evolutionary pressure of polar bear predation on seals probably accounts for some significant differences between Arctic and Antarctic seals. Coca-Cola has used images of the polar bear in its advertising,[219] and Polar Beverages, Nelvana, Bundaberg Rum, Klondike bars, and Fox's Glacier Mints all feature polar bears in their logos. [188], A new development is that polar bears have begun ranging to new territory. [2][37][38], There are 19 generally recognized, discrete subpopulations, though polar bears are thought to exist only in low densities in the area of the Arctic Basin. The Soviet Union banned all hunting in 1956. For example, The Polar Bear Son is adapted from a traditional Inuit tale. On land ( actually ice ) the polar bear would easily kill the seal. Peacock, E., Derocher, A. E., Thiemann, G. W., & Stirling, I. Ursus marinus Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present. [16] The bear is umka in the Chukchi language. [192] This may cause an increased reliance on terrestrial diets, such as goose eggs, waterfowl and caribou,[193] as well as increased human–bear conflict. However ( reality ), unless the polar bear happens to catch the leopard seal, the seal would never attack the bear. [90], The polar bear's most common hunting method is called still-hunting:[91] the bear uses its excellent sense of smell to locate a seal breathing hole, and crouches nearby in silence for a seal to appear. If you are a credentialed [133] The oldest wild bears on record died at age 32, whereas the oldest captive was a female who died in 1991, age 43. [177] It banned all importing of polar bear trophies. [1], The polar bear is found in the Arctic Circle and adjacent land masses as far south as Newfoundland. [89], With the exception of pregnant females, polar bears are active year-round, although they have a vestigial hibernation induction trigger in their blood. [36] While they are rare north of 88°, there is evidence that they range all the way across the Arctic, and as far south as James Bay in Canada. I found that hauling out for seals is indeed a risky behavior, as we were much more likely to see a kill on days with more seals visible on the sea ice. Although it is the sister species of the brown bear,[8] it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice and open water, and for hunting seals, which make up most of its diet. Government of Nunavut officials announced that the polar bear quota for the Baffin Bay region would be gradually reduced from 105 per year to 65 by the year 2013. [103] When sea ice is unavailable during summer and early autumn, some populations live off fat reserves for months at a time,[62] as polar bears do not 'hibernate' any time of the year. [21] The oldest known polar bear fossil is a 130,000 to 110,000-year-old jaw bone, found on Prince Charles Foreland in 2004. Polar bears hunt seals from a platform of sea ice. The Canadian two-dollar coin carries an image of a lone polar bear on its reverse side, while a special millennium edition featured three. Despite the risk, seals must haul out on the ice surface in May and June in order to molt their winter coats. [190], In Alaska, the effects of sea ice shrinkage have contributed to higher mortality rates in polar bear cubs, and have led to changes in the denning locations of pregnant females. [129] Reduction in sea-ice cover also forces bears to swim longer distances, which further depletes their energy stores and occasionally leads to drowning. It is one seal kill observation I will not soon forget. Fifty long-distance swims were recorded; the longest at 354 kilometres (220 mi), with an average of 155 kilometres (96 mi). Thus, now the Alaskan population more resembles the world population in that it is more likely to den on land. [172] Other provisions included year-round protection of cubs and mothers, restrictions on weapons used and various administrative requirements to catalogue kills. [224] The television series Lost features polar bears living on the tropical island setting. [123] On average, each litter has two cubs. [75] Satiated polar bears rarely attack humans unless severely provoked. [200] However, most polar bear biologists think that polar bears will be unable to completely offset the loss of calorie-rich seal blubber with terrestrial foods, and that they will be outcompeted by brown bears in this terrestrial niche, ultimately leading to a population decline. [11] For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of circumpolar peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures. The 42 teeth of a polar bear reflect its highly carnivorous diet. The Inuit refer to the animal as nanook (transliterated as nanuq in the Inupiat language). This specimen, when mounted, stood 3.39 m (11 ft 1 in) tall on its hindlegs. Importing products made from polar bears had been prohibited from 1972 to 1994 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and restricted between 1994 and 2008. The footage, released by the US Geological Survey, based in Virginia, shows a series of clips of the polar bear hunting with others, standing on the sea ice and jumping into the water to catch prey. This behaviour, if it happens, is rare – although the story exists in the oral history of northern peoples and in accounts by early Arctic explorers, there is no record of an eyewitness account of the behaviour in recent decades. Arctic Documentary Project: Polar Bear on a Seal Kill After our night off the shores of Moffen Island we motor for another three hours heading for Woodfjorden. [88] The Arctic is home to millions of seals, which become prey when they surface in holes in the ice in order to breathe, or when they haul out on the ice to rest. Kills were more frequent when sea ice concentration in the study area was higher. Find polar bear kills seal stock images in HD and millions of other royalty-free stock photos, illustrations and vectors in the Shutterstock collection. [161] This decision was approved of by members of the IUCN and TRAFFIC, who determined that such an uplisting was unlikely to confer a conservation benefit. [85], The polar bear is the most carnivorous member of the bear family, and throughout most of its range, its diet primarily consists of ringed (Pusa hispida) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus). Due to the absence of human development in its remote habitat, it retains more of its original range than any other extant carnivore. The body condition of polar bears has declined during this period; the average weight of lone (and likely pregnant) female polar bears was approximately 290 kg (640 lb) in 1980 and 230 kg (510 lb) in 2004. These areas, known as the "Arctic ring of life", have high biological productivity in comparison to the deep waters of the high Arctic. [174], Polar bears are currently listed as "Rare", of "Uncertain Status", or "Rehabilitated and rehabilitating" in the Red Data Book of Russia, depending on population. . "[153] Norwegians used "self-killing guns", comprising a loaded rifle in a baited box that was placed at the level of a bear's head, and which fired when the string attached to the bait was pulled. The bear was able to reach the truck and tore one of the doors off the truck before Hoshino was able to drive off. In some areas, the polar bear's diet is supplemented by walrus calves and by the carcasses of dead adult walruses or whales, whose blubber is readily devoured even when rotten. [28], However, the two species have mated intermittently for all that time, most likely coming into contact with each other during warming periods, when polar bears were driven onto land and brown bears migrated northward. It was early in the afternoon on April 25, 2010, and we were flying over the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea, following the tracks of an adult female polar bear with two yearling cubs. [191] In recent years, polar bears in the Arctic have undertaken longer than usual swims to find prey, possibly resulting in four recorded drownings in the unusually large ice pack regression of 2005. The tracks zigzagged through an active area of sea ice, where small to large floes of ice were interspersed with cracks and openings that revealed the seawater below. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft conservation management plan for polar bears to improve their status under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The seal had hauled out onto the sea ice, basking in the mid-afternoon light. [48] In the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, polar bears retreat each summer to the ice further north that remains frozen year-round. Canada began imposing hunting quotas in 1968. [131] Polar bears are especially susceptible to Trichinella, a parasitic roundworm they contract through cannibalism,[132] although infections are usually not fatal. [46] However, it is the only living marine mammal with powerful, large limbs and feet that allow them to cover kilometres on foot and run on land. [154] The numbers taken grew rapidly in the 1960s, peaking around 1968 with a global total of 1,250 bears that year. [87] A third hunting method is to raid the birth lairs that female seals create in the snow. For general questions regarding Polar Bears International and our work, please contact us at Although hauling out may come with the risk of being eaten by a polar bear, it is a required trade-off for being able to survive the summertime heat. Their southernmost range is near the boundary between the subarctic and humid continental climate zones. ", "Determinants of Home Range Size for Polar Bears (, "Polar Bear Ursus maritimus – APPEARANCE/ MORPHOLOGY: TAIL", "Fractures of the radius and ulna secondary to possible vitamin 'D' deficiency in captive polar bears (, "Population genomics reveal recent speciation and rapid evolutionary adaptation in polar bears", 10.1644/1545-1542(2005)86[895:SDOPB]2.0.CO;2. However, in 2006 it imposed a limit of 150, while also allowed recreational hunting for the first time. [43] Sport hunting can bring CDN$20,000 to $35,000 per bear into northern communities, which until recently has been mostly from American hunters. Polar Bears Polar bears consume a wide variety of other wild foods, including muskox (Ovibos moschatus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), birds, eggs, rodents, crabs, other crustaceans, fish[108] and other polar bears. Polar bears exposed to oil spill conditions have been observed to lick the oil from their fur, leading to fatal kidney failure. [23], The evidence from DNA analysis is more complex. The polar bear also hunts by stalking seals resting on the ice: upon spotting a seal, it walks to within 90 m (100 yd), and then crouches. Now the polar bear will crush the seal’s head and eat it later. 1987. For other uses, see, "Ice Bear" redirects here. Yet another polar bear’s hunting method is stalking. [36], In addition to creating nutritional stress, a warming climate is expected to affect various other aspects of polar bear life: changes in sea ice affect the ability of pregnant females to build suitable maternity dens. [214] The polar bear is the mascot of Bowdoin College, Maine; the University of Alaska Fairbanks; and the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary. 900 bears a year were harvested in the 1920s and after World War II, there were as many as 400–500 harvested annually. "The influence of climate variability on polar bear (, "Diet composition of polar bears in Svalbard and the western Barents Sea", https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ursus_maritimus/, "Interactions between polar bears and overwintering walruses in the Central Canadian High Arctic", "Polar bear metabolism cannot cope with ice loss", "Comments on 'Carnivorous walrus and some Arctic zoonoses, "Hudson Bay Post — Goodbye Churchil [sic] Dump", "What to eat now? Why not stay in the water where the seal would have had the advantage in agility and speed, and likely would have escaped? Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. Although stereotyped as being voraciously aggressive, they are normally cautious in confrontations, and often choose to escape rather than fight. [90] Insufficient nourishment leads to lower reproductive rates in adult females and lower survival rates in cubs and juvenile bears, in addition to poorer body condition in bears of all ages. Polar bears appear to be less affected by infectious diseases and parasites than most terrestrial mammals. Rising temperatures cause the sea ice to melt earlier in the year, driving the bears to shore before they have built sufficient fat reserves to survive the period of scarce food in the late summer and early fall. The bear can grapple; the seal cannot. Polar Bears International, Polar Bears and Astronauts: Muscle Atrophy. Disturbance of these sensitive sites may trigger the mother to abandon her den prematurely, or abandon her litter altogether. Yet, they have often been seen playing together for hours at a time and even sleeping in an embrace,[78] and polar bear zoologist Nikita Ovsianikov has described adult males as having "well-developed friendships. 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