Polar bears consume a wide variety of other wild foods, including muskox (Ovibos moschatus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), birds, eggs, rodents, crabs, other crustaceans, fish[108] and other polar bears. [39] Until 2005 Greenland placed no limit on hunting by indigenous people. She then travelled another 1,800 km (1,100 mi). [84], In 1992, a photographer near Churchill took a now widely circulated set of photographs of a polar bear playing with a Canadian Eskimo Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) a tenth of its size. Compared with its closest relative, the brown bear, the polar bear has a more elongated body build and a longer skull and nose. Peacock, E., Derocher, A. E., Thiemann, G. W., & Stirling, I. Kolenosky G. B. [149], The Nenets of north-central Siberia placed particular value on the talismanic power of the prominent canine teeth. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. They are strong and fast, and can run as fast as 25 miles (40 km) an hour for a short distance. The bear's stark white coat provides camouflage in surrounding snow and ice. Multiple cases of adoption of wild cubs have been confirmed by genetic testing. The polar bear's life cycle is closely tied to sea ice. In 2015 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group designated polar bears as a vulnerable species. This subpopulation feeds heavily on ringed seals in late spring, when newly weaned and easily hunted seal pups are abundant. [182], The International Union for Conservation of Nature, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, United States Geological Survey and many leading polar bear biologists have expressed grave concerns about the impact of climate change, including the belief that the current warming trend imperils the survival of the polar bear. Except for one subspecies of grizzly bear, the polar bear is the largest and most powerful carnivore on land. [109] This study illustrates the polar bear's dietary flexibility but it does not represent its life history elsewhere. This specimen, when mounted, stood 3.39 m (11 ft 1 in) tall on its hindlegs. [22] Fossils show that between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, the polar bear's molar teeth changed significantly from those of the brown bear. The most accurate counts require flying a helicopter in the Arctic climate to find polar bears, shooting a tranquilizer dart at the bear to sedate it, and then tagging the bear. Constantine John Phipps was the first to describe the polar bear as a distinct species in 1774. It grows to about 1.6 metres (5.3 feet) tall at the shoulder and 2.2–2.5 metres in length. By springtime, they weigh more than 20 pounds and start exploring with their mother outside the den. If the seal does not notice, the bear creeps to within 9 to 12 m (30 to 40 ft) of the seal and then suddenly rushes forth to attack. However, in 2006 it imposed a limit of 150, while also allowed recreational hunting for the first time. It has no natural predators and knows no fear of humans, making it an extremely dangerous animal. [175] In 2010, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment published a strategy for polar bear conservation in Russia. In Russian, it is usually called бе́лый медве́дь (bélyj medvédj, the white bear), though an older word still in use is ошку́й (Oshkúj, which comes from the Komi oski, "bear"). [69], The polar bear has an extremely well developed sense of smell, being able to detect seals nearly 1.6 km (1 mi) away and buried under 1 m (3 ft) of snow. [119] Partners stay together and mate repeatedly for an entire week; the mating ritual induces ovulation in the female. [66] The hollow guard hairs of a polar bear coat were once thought to act as fiber-optic tubes to conduct light to its black skin, where it could be absorbed; however, this hypothesis was disproved by a study in 1998. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the category of vulnerable, as distinct from the category of endangered, means that polar bears have a slightly lower risk of extinction than if they were endangered. [139][140] The remains of polar bears have found in the stomachs of large Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus), although it certainly cannot be ruled out that the bears were merely scavenged by this slow-moving, unusual shark. Polar bears are just too big to become completely inactive in hibernation. Because of continued global warming, a substantial reduction in the coverage of Arctic summer sea ice—prime habitat for polar bears—is expected by the middle of the 21st century. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present. Polar bears injured in fights or accidents may either die from their injuries, or become unable to hunt effectively, leading to starvation. Depending on the timing of ice-floe breakup in the fall, she may have fasted for up to eight months. It is the largest extant bear species, as well as the largest extant land carnivore. [73], The relationship between ringed seals and polar bears is so close that the abundance of ringed seals in some areas appears to regulate the density of polar bears, while polar bear predation in turn regulates density and reproductive success of ringed seals. [131] Bacterial leptospirosis and Morbillivirus have been recorded. Neptune's orbit has a profound impact on the region directly beyond it, known as the Kuiper belt. [43], In August 2011, Environment Canada published a national polar bear conservation strategy. PCBs have received the most study, and they have been associated with birth defects and immune system deficiency. Habitat and Distribution The brown bear's range includes northern North America and Eurasia, including the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Central Asia, Scandinavia, Romania, Caucasus, and Anatolia. Model forecasts by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest that habitat loss may cause polar bear populations to decline by two-thirds by the year 2050. [2], The bear family, Ursidae, is thought to have split from other carnivorans about 38 million years ago. [3][2] He chose the scientific name Ursus maritimus, the Latin for 'maritime bear',[14] due to the animal's native habitat. Polar bears are popular in fiction, particularly in books for children or teenagers. Along with a voracious appetite it has a reputation for unmatched ferocity and apparently fears nothing. It was believed that the "little nephew" (the brown bear) would not dare to attack a man wearing the tooth of its powerful "big uncle", the polar bear. [39], Polar bears were hunted heavily in Svalbard, Norway throughout the 19th century and to as recently as 1973, when the conservation treaty was signed. The dental formula is 3.1.4.23.1.4.3. The late spring hunting season ends for polar bears when the ice begins to melt and break up, and they fast or eat little during the summer until the sea freezes again. The polar bear is considered to be the largest extant species, with adult males weighing 350–700 kilograms (770–1,500 pounds) and measuring 2.4–3 metres (7 ft 10 in–9 ft 10 in) in total length. Coca-Cola has used images of the polar bear in its advertising,[219] and Polar Beverages, Faronics Deep Freeze, Nelvana, Bundaberg Rum, Klondike bars, and Fox's Glacier Mints all feature polar bears in their logos. [71] One bear swam continuously for 9 days in the frigid Bering Sea for 700 km (400 mi) to reach ice far from land. It has been claimed that polar bears will be able to adapt to terrestrial food sources as the sea ice they use to hunt seals disappears. The family remains in the den until mid-February to mid-April, with the mother maintaining her fast while nursing her cubs on a fat-rich milk. Some regulations of hunting did exist. Females first reproduce at four to eight years of age and breed every two to four years thereafter. [125] Adult bears of either gender occasionally kill and eat polar bear cubs. Cubs weigh less than 1 kg at birth and are not weaned until after they are two years old. [36][48] The polar bear tends to frequent areas where sea ice meets water, such as polynyas and leads (temporary stretches of open water in Arctic ice), to hunt the seals that make up most of its diet. [36][183][184][185][186][187], The key danger posed by climate change is malnutrition or starvation due to habitat loss. [168] While most of that quota is hunted by the indigenous Inuit people, a growing share is sold to recreational hunters. Why Didn't the Wild Polar Bear eat the Husky? [223] The panserbjørne of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials are sapient, dignified polar bears who exhibit anthropomorphic qualities, and feature prominently in the 2007 film adaptation of The Golden Compass. On 15 May 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, citing the melting of Arctic sea ice as the primary threat to the polar bear. [172] Other provisions included year-round protection of cubs and mothers, restrictions on weapons used and various administrative requirements to catalogue kills. 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