One of the youngest of the bear species and the largest carnivorous land mammal on Earth, is the Polar Bear. Males can weight up to 1700 pounds and measure 7 to 8 feet nose to tail with a lifespan of 25 years.
Although cute as they make look, they are fierce hunters and protectors of their young. Thick fur, 4 inches of blubber and black skin, evident by their nose, absorbs the heating rays of the sun making them very adaptable to the severe cold climate they inhabit. Wide paws distribute their weight giving them traction on ice and preventing them from cracking the sea ice and falling through.
To help them swim and catch their prey to satisfy their diet of seals—unlike other bears—they have webbed feet. This really makes them marine mammals much like seals, walruses, whales and dolphins, but in reality they are still bears!
Another difference from their cousins the black bear and brown bear, the polar bear does not den. In winter the black and brown bears’ food supply is diminished and thus den (or hibernate). Polar bears’ food supply is constant and therefore no need to den. Sometimes a pregnant female and will den to protect its young from freezing in the cold environment.
Climate warming is seriously endangering their existence and could one day make the polar bear extinct. Rising temperatures cause diminished or no sea ice for longer periods of time thus preventing the bear from hunting for long stretches of time. While polar bears swim well, global warming causes storms and if the bear is at sea swimming in a storm, it will most likely drown. On land, they have no choice but to fast for longer periods until the ice forms again and they can hunt seals that are under, on or in the ice cap.
In Canada’s Hudson Bay the climate is having a serious effect, the polar bears are thinner, have fewer cubs and those cubs that are born do not survive to adulthood. Another disturbing effect is that because of the shorter hunting season, at times to satisfy their hunger, the male bears practice cannibalism of the cubs.
The polar bears survival is at great risk unless carbon emissions are drastically reduced to preserve the polar ice cap environment that is critical for the survival of polar bears.