Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Well, today I am going to tell you about real polar bears, by which I mean the ones who live in the Wild Arctic and not in the zoo.  Polar bears are designed to stay warm even when the temperature is very cold, so that way they can live in the frozen north and hunt for seals, which they find to be especially yummy.  The seals are also designed to stay warm in the cold weather, so it works out nicely for the polar bears.

Mostly, polar bears live along the edges of the Arctic Ocean, because that is where there is a bunch of sea ice.  Polar bears can swim really well, which is why their scientific name is Ursus maritimus, which means "sea bear."  The native people who live in the north call the Polar bear nanook.  In Russian and French, it is called "the white bear," and the Scandinavians call it the "ice bear."  Polar bears and Kodiak bears are the largest land carnivores in the world.  An adult male weighs between 770 and 1,500 pounds, and an adult female weighs about half that amount.

Polar bears have big, wide feet that help them walk on snow and ice, and also help them swim better.  They have special bumps on the pads of their feet to give them better traction, and their claws are shorter than other bears' claws, which makes it easier for them to dig in ice.

You might be surprised know that Polar bears have black skin!  The black skin soaks up the heat from the sun while the thick fur keeps the cold out.  Also Polar bears have a layer of blubber to help them stay warm.  Their ears are small, and their legs and tail are short, so this means the bears don't have a lot of body parts sticking out and getting cold.  Plus Polar bears also have a narrow head that is good for cutting through the water when they are swimming.

Anyway, like I said, Polar bears eat mostly seals, and the kinds of seals they eat are ringed and bearded seals.  The way Polar bears hunt is they like to wait by a hole in the ice where a seal might come up for a breath of air.  And when the seal comes up, the Polar bear grabs him and eats him!  Also Polar bears can catch seals when they are getting out of the water to rest for a while on the ice.  Sometimes Polar bears can sneak up on seals who are lying around sunning themselves, but the more usual way is to get them when they first come up out of the water.

The adult bears mostly eat the skin and blubber of a seal, which has lots of calories, and the younger bears eat the meat, which is full of protein.  If Polar bears can't find seals to eat, they might eat some other kind of meat.  They have been known to climb cliffs to get birds and eggs.  Usually, Polar bears don't eat people, but if they are hungry enough, they may start eating more of them.  And also they will start raiding garbage cans and stuff, which will make the bears more dangerous to people because they will be coming more often to the places where people live.

The number of Polar bears has been getting smaller lately, so now Polar bears are classified as VULNERABLE.  The biggest problem for the Polar bears is Global Warming, and this is because the temperatures keep getting warmer, so the sea ice melts earlier in the year.  This is bad for the bears because they can only hunt seals from the ice, and when the ice melts, they have to go live on shore, even if they haven't fattened up enough to get through the late summer and early fall until the sea ice freezes again.  And another thing that happens is that bears have to go swimming long distances to find ice and seals, but all the swimming uses up their energy, and sometimes they drown.  A lot of bears are just going around hungry, so they're not very healthy, and also they can't make as many baby bears.

Then besides Global Warming, there is also the problem of pollution and toxic stuff in the air and water. Plus the bears get stressed out by all the people who come to watch Polar bears, and also by people drilling for oil and gas, and by all the ships going by.  And then sometimes people hunt Polar bears, which is legal in some places, but not in other places.

So it's a bad situation for the Polar bears, and maybe the ones like Nikita who live in zoos have a pretty good life, after all.  But it would be very sad if it turned out someday that the only place where there were any Polar bears was in zoos.


  1. What a very interesting post. In fact, I read it twice! I did not know that nanook stood for the polar bear. For some strange, if not odd reason, I thought that term referred to someone, a person, from the Artic area. That's why I enjoy your blogs so much Piper - I ALWAYS learn something. One of my dreams and possibly a goal is to take an Alaskan cruise. I thought maybe I could possibly get a glimpse of a polar bear, however, after looking at the map you doesn't look like that area has polar bears. I hope our world NEVER comes to a place where polar bears are only in zoos. With the "warming" of our planet that certainly is a concern to put it lightly. Thanks again for such an interesting blog.
    Love, AP

  2. Dear Aunt Patty,
    Mom and I didn't know that nanook was a word for Polar bear either. We think there was a book or something called "Nanook of the North," but we have never read it. Maybe it is about a Polar bear. Or maybe not. Mom also wants to go on a cruise to Alaska, so maybe you and she could go there together someday. I don't want to go to Alaska because I think it would be too cold, and I'm afraid a bear or a killer whale would eat me!
    Love, Piper

  3. I did not know one could train a bear of any color to retrieve camera equipment. My mom and dad would NEVER let me retrieve expensive equipment like that. Sometimes mom will ask me to get her shoes/slippers, but I'll only do that if she has *good* treats on her or in smelling distance. I wonder what sort of treats that polar bear is getting. I bet they are *really* good.

    Your friend
    Zest, superstar in training

  4. Hahahahaha! Zest, you are sooooo funny! That polar bear is not retrieving, of course. He is stealing the tripod because he is mad at the tourists for not bringing him a tasty seal to eat!

    Your friend, Piper

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