Ice Bear Facts: 21-25 | Dietary Habits of Polar Bears
21. They usually go for ringed seals because seals are smaller than them and weigh less. They go for bearded seals but bearded seals can be as big as the polar bears. Adult bearded seals are way too big for adult female polar bears and hence, they are usually killed by adult male polar bears.
22. Adult male polar bears are also known for charging into a pack of walruses that are way bigger than them. The charging bears hope to isolate a young walrus or an incapacitated or injure walrus that can become an easy prey. Walrus calves are however easy prey for polar bears.
23. Polar bears are also known for occasionally preying on narwhals and beluga whales. The bears usually hunt them at their breathing holes. It is not unlikely to see polar bears feeding on carcasses of dead whales and adult walruses. While scavenging on the dead carcasses, polar bears again go for the fat and skin even if they are in a rotten state.
24. Polar bears are also flexible in their diet. They can also go for muskox, birds, eggs, reindeer, crustaceans and even cannibalize on other polar bears. They are also seen feeding on kelp, roots and berries but vegetarian diet is never a significant one.
25. The dietary flexibility is usually seen during summer months when the sea ice is gone and seals are scarce. Since their metabolism is designed for consuming large amounts of fat from marine mammals, the bears do not usually get the necessary calories from terrestrial animals. Many polar bears decide to fast during the summer months and survive on their fat reserves.
Ice Bear Facts: 26-30 | Reproduction and Life Cycle
26. Courtship followed by mating usually takes place during April and May and this happens on sea ice, especially in seal hunting grounds. Males need to fight for mating rights and these fights are often very brutal, leaving behind scars as well as broken teeth. The winner mates for an entire week and it is this mating that induces ovulation in female polar bears.
27. Post mating, the fertilized eggs in females stay in a suspended state till August or at the most till September. During this period the female eats a lot and nearly doubles her weight. After that, the female digs a den known as maternity den in a snow bank and crawls in. Inside the den, the female goes into a hibernation-like state but doesn’t really hibernate.
28. Polar bear cubs are born between November and February. The female usually gives birth to twins but she can give birth to triplets or even a single cub. The newborn cubs are very tiny and weigh nearly 0.5 kilograms. They are blind at birth and feature light brown fur.
29. The mother polar bear stays with her cubs in the den to maximum of mid-April and until then she feeds the cubs with fat-rich milk. By the time the mother breaks open the den’s entrance, the cubs grow up to 15 kilos in weight. Cubs are weaned for 2.5 years after which they are either abandoned by the mother or are chased away.
30. Females reach sexual maturity when they are 4 years old and the males reach sexual maturity when they are 6 years old. However, considering that competition for females is very high, males may decide not to mate until they are 10 years old.
Bonus Ice Bear Facts:
- In the wild the Lords of the Arctic barely live beyond 25 years of age but on an average they live anywhere between 15 and 20 years.
- Polar bears cannot run for long as they overheat quickly. When they run, they need more oxygen.
- When running, polar bears spend nearly twice as much energy as other mammals.
- Polar bears are capable of galloping as fast as horses but for a very short time period.
- Leaner and younger bears are better runners than larger and older bears because the larger and older bears overheat quickly.
- After the polar bears eat, they wash themselves with water or snow.
- It is believed that there are anywhere between 20,000 and 25,000 bears present in the wild.
- Inuit people still hunt polar bears but such hunting is highly regulated using a quota system.
- On IUCN conservation list, polar bears have the status ‘vulnerable’.
- Adult male polar bears can kill polar bear cubs and eat them.