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[73], Mature bears tend to eat only the calorie-rich skin and blubber of the seal, which are highly digestible,[92] whereas younger bears consume the protein-rich red meat. Males mature at about the same age as females but do not breed until a few years later. [2], Steven Amstrup and other U.S. Geological Survey scientists have predicted two-thirds of the world's polar bears may disappear by 2050, based on moderate projections for the shrinking of summer sea ice caused by climate change,[90][188] though the validity of this study has been debated. [28], However, the two species have mated intermittently for all that time, most likely coming into contact with each other during warming periods, when polar bears were driven onto land and brown bears migrated northward. These Arctic giants are the masters of their environment and have no natural enemies. Additionally, polar bears are opportunistic as well as predatory: they will consume dead fish and carcasses of stranded whales and eat garbage near human settlements. [17] In Quebec, the polar bear is referred to as ours blanc ("white bear") or ours polaire ("polar bear"). [57][58] While all bears are short-tailed, the polar bear's tail is relatively the shortest amongst living bears, ranging from 7 to 13 cm (2.8 to 5.1 in) in length.[59]. Young remain with their mothers until they reach sexual maturity. [157] In September 2015, the polar bear range states agreed upon a "circumpolar action plan" describing their conservation strategy for polar bears. [10], Ursus eogroenlandicusUrsus groenlandicusUrsus jenaensisUrsus labradorensisUrsus marinusUrsus polarisUrsus spitzbergensisUrsus ungavensisThalarctos maritimus, Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species. They give birth in winter, usually to twins.
Learn how polar bears have adapted to life on top of the world. In swimming the polar bear uses only its front limbs, an aquatic adaptation found in no other four-legged mammal.

Polar bears are the largest carnivorous land mammals on Earth. [109][110] Adult muskox, which can weigh 450 kg (1,000 lb) or more, are a more formidable quarry. PCBs have received the most study, and they have been associated with birth defects and immune system deficiency. Some regulations of hunting did exist. For example, The Polar Bear Son is adapted from a traditional Inuit tale. …strong swimmers, most notably the polar bear. The polar bear travels long distances over vast desolate expanses, generally on drifting oceanic ice floes, searching for seals, its primary prey. These areas, known as the "Arctic ring of life", have high biological productivity in comparison to the deep waters of the high Arctic. No, polar bears are not an endangered species, but they are threatened.

[85][86] The pair wrestled harmlessly together each afternoon for 10 days in a row for no apparent reason, although the bear may have been trying to demonstrate its friendliness in the hope of sharing the kennel's food. In 2015 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group designated polar bears as a vulnerable species. [18] In the Norwegian-administered Svalbard archipelago, the polar bear is referred to as Isbjørn ("ice bear"). The skulls of killed polar bears were buried at sacred sites, and altars, called sedyangi, were constructed out of the skulls. The tail is 7–12 cm (3–5 inches) long. [94][95] They also in places prey heavily upon the harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) or the harbour seal. [211] Vehicle licence plates in the Northwest Territories in Canada are in the shape of a polar bear, as was the case in Nunavut until 2012; these now display polar bear artwork instead. [80], In general, adult polar bears live solitary lives. Thawing of permafrost would affect the bears who traditionally den underground, and warm winters could result in den roofs collapsing or having reduced insulative value. [88] The Arctic is home to millions of seals, which become prey when they surface in holes in the ice in order to breathe, or when they haul out on the ice to rest.

The Soviet Union banned all hunting in 1956. 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. [115], Courtship and mating take place on the sea ice in April and May, when polar bears congregate in the best seal hunting areas. Estimates of total historical harvest suggest that from the beginning of the 18th century, roughly 400 to 500 animals were being harvested annually in northern Eurasia, reaching a peak of 1,300 to 1,500 animals in the early 20th century, and falling off as the numbers began dwindling. Among young males in particular, play-fighting may be a means of practicing for serious competition during mating seasons later in life. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the polar bear diverged from the brown bear, Ursus arctos, roughly 150,000 years ago. The length of these swims ranged from most of a day to ten days. Canada began imposing hunting quotas in 1968. Their black skin color is readily apparent on the nose, eyes, lips and footpads. [146] The fur was used in particular to make trousers and, by the Nenets, to make galoshes-like outer footwear called tobok; the meat is edible, despite some risk of trichinosis; the fat was used in food and as a fuel for lighting homes, alongside seal and whale blubber; sinews were used as thread for sewing clothes; the gallbladder and sometimes heart were dried and powdered for medicinal purposes; the large canine teeth were highly valued as talismans. [95][99] Polar bears may attempt to consume almost anything they can find, including hazardous substances such as styrofoam, plastic, car batteries, ethylene glycol, hydraulic fluid, and motor oil. tyrannus was significantly larger than the living subspecies. For decades, large-scale hunting raised international concern for the future of the species, but populations rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. [26] A comparison of the nuclear genome of polar bears with that of brown bears revealed a different pattern, the two forming genetically distinct clades that diverged approximately 603,000 years ago,[27] although the latest research is based on analysis of the complete genomes (rather than just the mitochondria or partial nuclear genomes) of polar and brown bears, and establishes the divergence of polar and brown bears at 400,000 years ago. It is the largest extant bear species, as well as the largest extant predatory carnivore. In 2007, the Russian government made subsistence hunting legal for indigenous Chukotkan peoples only, a move supported by Russia's most prominent bear researchers and the World Wide Fund for Nature as a means to curb poaching. Longevity in the wild is 25 to 30 years, but in captivity several polar bears have lived to more than 35 years old. [116] During this time, cubs playfully imitate the mother's hunting methods in preparation for later life. [43] The Polar Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission takes the position that "estimates of subpopulation size or sustainable harvest levels should not be made solely on the basis of traditional ecological knowledge without supporting scientific studies. In unusually warm conditions, the hollow tubes provide an excellent home for algae. 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.
[71] One bear swam continuously for 9 days in the frigid Bering Sea for 700 km (400 mi) to reach ice far from land. They may also eat plants, including berries, roots, and kelp;[107] however, none of these have been a significant part of their diet,[99] except for beachcast marine mammal carcasses. [117] Partners stay together and mate repeatedly for an entire week; the mating ritual induces ovulation in the female. They are very strong swimmers, and their large front paws, which they use to paddle, are slightly webbed. [116] A study in Hudson Bay indicated that both the reproductive success and the maternal weight of females peaked in their mid-teens.Maternal success appeared to decline after this point, possibly because of an age-related impairment in the ability to store the fat necessary to rear cubs.[128]. These legends reveal a deep respect for the polar bear, which is portrayed as both spiritually powerful and closely akin to humans. [102] When sea ice is unavailable during summer and early autumn, some populations live off fat reserves for months at a time,[62] as polar bears do not 'hibernate' any time of the year. One important adaptation of polar bears to their unique climate is the transparency of their thick fur, which allows sunlight to pass through and reach their black skin, where heat from the sun is then absorbed. The polar bear also hunts by stalking seals resting on the ice: upon spotting a seal, it walks to within 90 m (100 yd), and then crouches.
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