Survival on the Polar Ice Cap

by Dennis Machicao

One of the youngest of the bear species is the Polar Bear and the largest carnivorous land mammal on Earth. Males can weigh up to 1700 pounds and measure 7 to 8 feet nose to tail with a lifespan of 25 years.

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 sea ice and falling through.

To help them swim and satisfy their diet of seals, unlike other bears, they have webbed feet and considered to be marine mammals much like seals, walruses, whales and dolphins, but in reality they are still bears.

 Unlike other bears, the polar bear does not den. In winter the black and brown bears’ food supply is diminished and thus den. Polar bears’ food supply is constant and therefore no need to den, unless it’s 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. Bears swim, but global warming causes storms and if at sea during a storm the bear could drown. 

Rising temperatures cause diminished or no sea ice for longer periods of time thus preventing the bear from hunting for longer stretches of time. On land, they have no choice but to fast for longer periods until the ice form again and they can hunt seals that are under, on, or in the ice cap.

This occurrence usually happens around Canada’s Hudson Bay, but has also spread to a wider region of the polar ice cap, and thus the bears are skinnier, have fewer cubs and those cubs that are born may not survive to adulthood. With a shorter hunting season, to satisfy their hunger, the male bears at times will practice cannibalism of the cubs.

Carbon emissions, causing the warming of the earth’s atmosphere, is the main catalyst in the changing ice cap and has to be drastically reduced to preserve the polar ice cap environment that is so necessary for polar bears and other mammals’ survival that inhabits that region of the earth.

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