10 Cool Facts About Polar Bears

Female polar bear with her twin cubs photo by:Photo on <a href="https://visualhunt.com/re/7fdb09">Visual Hunt</a>
Female polar bear with her twin cubs photo by:Photo on Visual Hunt

1. A polar bear’s skin (under its white fur) is actually black to help keep it warm. A polar bear’s white hairs are hollow to help it float while swimming.

2. A polar bear can growl, roar, chuff, hiss, whimper and purr.

3. An adult polar bear’s paw is the size of a dinner plate. Its footpads have small bumps on them, like those on a basketball, so the polar bear has traction on ice.

4. A sense of smell is a polar bear’s strongest sense. A polar bear can smell seals from several miles away.

5. Polar bears mainly eat ringed seals, but also eat bearded, harp and hooded seals as well as carcasses of beluga whales, walruses, narwhal whales, and bowhead whales.

6. Male polar bears are about 9 feet long (2.7 m) and weigh 1000 pounds (453.6 kg). A female polar bear is 8 feet long (2.4 m) and weigh 500 pounds (226.8 kg) (unless pregnant).

7. In the summer, a polar bear may not eat for 3 months. A mother polar bear won’t eat for 5 months while in a birthing lair. Polar bears do not hibernate.

8. Polar bears can hold their breath for 2 minutes. They doggy paddle with their front paws and steer with their rear paws while swimming.

9. A mother polar bear usually has twin cubs. At birth, cubs are the size of guinea pigs. They emerge from their den 3 months after being born so their mother can feed. They leave their mother after 2.5-3 years.

10. Polar bears can run faster than humans, but only for a few seconds.

Facts from children’s book The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

How Seals are Affected By Climate Change

seals climate change
Ringed seals are affected by climate change photo by Brendan Kelly/NSF

Ah, polar bears get all the attention because of the ice caps melting due to climate change! But there wouldn’t be any polar bears if us ice seals weren’t around to feed them! Not that I want to be polar bear lunch anytime soon! I hope us ringed seals will get more attention soon.

That may come true as the United States has listed 6 species of ice seals (2 bearded seals and 4 ringed seals) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is good news because it is happening before any of those species are critically endangered. It also lends support to those who believe in climate change.

My life and the sea ice

I use the sea ice to breed, molt, give birth, and nurse my pup. Climate change will bring shorter ice seasons. That means that the ice cave that I build to keep my newborn pup safe and warm will be gone before my pup is ready to explore outside our den! Although increased snowfall is predicted during the rest of this century, much of it will before the seasonal ice forms. The snow will end of falling into the ocean instead of piling up on the ice! Also, increased rainfall will melt my snow den early.

So where does that leave me? Well, I will continue to do what I do so well, which is eat, swim, and reproduce, but the odds that my pup (or myself!) will survive is greatly reduced. Life in extremely cold environments is challenging in itself, but our food supply is dwindling because of overfishing and pollution. Sigh, I’d better get back to looking for food…and remember that seals are affected by climate change, and not just polar bears!

Also see how How Sea Otters Fight Climate Change
This post is based on this article at Scientific American