Bear Essentials

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polar bears live in one of the planet's coldest environments and have a body built to survive.

Size: Adult males typically measure 6 1/2 to 8 feet (from nose to tail) and weigh 700 to 1,500 pounds. Females are about half that weight.

Average lifespan in the wild:25 to 30 years.

Name: Its Latin name Ursus maritimus means "sea bear"; also known locally as nanook, nanuq, ice bear and white bear.

Paws: Measure 12 inches across in an adult; distribute the bear's weight on snow and ice. The foot pad is covered with tiny hairs that provide traction.

Fur: Consists of a layer of dense underfur and an outer layer of guard hairs; white coat provides camouflage in snow and ice.

Skin: Black, to better soak up the sun's warming rays.

Insulation: About four inches of blubber traps heat.

Sense of smell: Well-developed, able to detect seals nearly a mile away.

True or False?

A hunting bear will cover its black nose while lying in wait for a seal.

False. The legend is widespread among native hunters, but scientists who study polar bears have not reported seeing this behavior.

All polar bears are left-pawed.

False. Scientists observing these animals haven't noticed a preference.

Polar bears live at both poles.

False. Polar bears live only in the area around the North Pole.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of the Interior;

Polar Bears International

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