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title="Kodiak: Grizzly, Panda, Polar Bear">Bears - BearPlanet.org</a>
Polar Bear (also known as nanook, nanook of the north or great white bear) is a noble-looking animal and of enormous strength,
living bravely warm amid eternal ice... They are the
unrivaled master-existences of this icebound solitude. They will never
attack a man unless it's hungry or unless someone aggravating him. It's
people that aggravate a bear...
Polar Bear Facts & Information
Polar Bear (scientific name: Ursus maritimus) is descended from
brown bear ancestors that
became permanently bleached and reshaped by the harsh environment north of the
Arctic Circle ( the polar bear habitat).
The polar bear is an excellent swimmer, with a long neck, powerful sloping shoulders, paddling membranes
that web half the length of its forepaws and a thick, oily fur that sheds seawater and helps insulate
the bear against the cold.
Polar bears can swim for 80 Km in ice cold water without resting, and remain astonishingly
agile at the end of it. They have a layer of subcutaneous fat, very similar to the blubber fat of sea mammals.
That can be as thick as 10 cm when winter starts, and it ensures the retention of body heat and a
low density that enables the animal to float more easily in water while swimming.
Like most other bears, it spend most of its waking hours hunting food to fuel
its immense body and to build up the aforementioned thick layer of protective fat to keep it warm
in icy winds and water and to serve as sustenance during the long Arctic winter night.
Where do polar bears live
This massive white bear is an intelligent and crafty animal that is cursed with intense curiosity.
This may lead it to find new sources of food, but, like curious cats, can also lead it into trouble.
Polar Bear cubs (baby polar bear)
Most female polar bears mate at the age of four or five and some have cubs until they are 25 years old.
Females leave their babies when they are only one and a half years old and have cubs every second year.
Most females have twins.
Mothers that are particularly young, and also the older females, often only have a single cub,
and 1% of all female polar bears have triplets.
Polar bear cubs nurse frequently and grow quickly.
Their sense of hearing develops at 26 days, and their eyes open at 33 days old.
When they are two months old (polar bear cubs picture below), the cubs weight 5.5 to 7.0 kilograms.
They play and romp and sometimes one can hear them squeal.
The mother can be sleepy and self-indulgent , but if any danger threatens her cubs she is immediately wide awake and will defend her cubs with her life. She will nurse her cubs for at least a year and the cubs will share her meals during the latter stages of nursing.
They watch her hunt and then start to hunt themselves. About 40% females leave their cubs when they
are only one and a half years old.
If they learn to hunt quickly, the youngsters will have a good
chance of survival in this dangerous climate.
Polar bear hunting
"The polar bear is victim of a peculiar, and particularly repulsive , expression of man's egotism," noted the
New York Times in a 1965 editorial.
""Wealthy men have taken to hunting bears in Alaska from airplanes...
This kind of hunt is about sporting as machine-gunning a cow. Its only purpose is to obtain the
bear's fur as a trophy for the floor or wall of someone's den."
In Alaska until 1950, only Inuit hunted polar bears, and they rarely took more than 120 a year.
That year sports hunting began, and it soon gained worldwide notoriety because the bears were hunted
with planes. The principal reason for this hunt was money.
Polar Bears are protected
For $3000 at first, and soon for double and triple that sum, the hunter was assured a bear, for the method
of hunting the bears gave them no hope for escape. Two planes took off together and flew far out over the pack ice.
When a bear was spotted, the hunter's plane landed and the other plane drove the bear to within easy
shooting distance. Often both planes simply chased the bear until it collapsed in exhaustion.
Then the 'sportsman' landed and shot the bear. In 1965, the hunters killed about 300 bears and 400 in 1966.
Today, however, the polar bear is protected and their status has been declared, at the recommendation
of the IUCN Polar Bear Group, as "Vulnerable".
The Marine Mammal Act signed by Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States gives
polar bears a degree of protection that they have never previously had.
The spirit of the polar bear
The Russian scientist S.M. Uspensky once found polar bear skulls carefully stacked in piles several
feet high on a remote Siberian beach where an ancient Arctic race had at one time prayed to the spirit
of the bear. The Ket, a tribe of central Siberia, regarded the bear as their ancestor.
They too, placed bear skulls in the fork of a tree and to this day the Ket refer to the bear as gyp,
"grandfather," or qoi, "stepfather".
Neanderthal man and Arctic man lived in the deeply mystic and spiritual world of the hunter who must kill
in order to live. This was the ethos of the Inuit. The Inuit is a member of the Inuit people, the term having
official status in Canada and also used elsewhere as a synonym for the Eskimo in general.
this latter use, in including Siberians who are not Inupiaq-speakers, is, strictly speaking, not accurate).
However, that apart, the Inuit believed that all animals and man had inua, "souls", and to ensure
future hunting success and harmony with the spirits of nature it was essential to placate the souls
of slain animals, especially an animal as huge and man-like as the bear.
The bear could stand upright, like an enormous hairy giant, and when skinned, with his pinkish blubber,
his finger-like claws and massive torso , looks gruesomely, horrifyingly like an immense naked human.
In this spiritual world of early Arctic man, animals were kin, an ancient belief reflected in totemism
and in fables and mythology. It was a mental world where the real and the unreal, the factual and the spiritual,
merged. A shaman of the Polar Inuit explained an unsuccessful polar bear hunt in an area where bears were
usually numerous, like this:" The bears are not here, because there is no ice here, and there is no
ice here because the wind is too strong, and the wind is too strong because we have insulted the spirits.
Polar Bears Attack
The bears are usually friendly and rarely attack without serious provocation. But when hungry bears
are nervous and irritable and driven by hunger, their behavior becomes erratic, unpredictable and they can
This is particularly true of young bears (inexperienced hunters) and old bears. If polar bear attack
then it is surprisingly fast. Sometimes the Polar bear attacks in long, cat-like jumps, without uttering a
sound, or perhaps groaning. The bear becomes a tremendous concentration of strength and power, and there is little time left for escape.
The only known fatal polar bear attack is the attack on Hattie Amitnak in 1999.
Polar Bears Hunts
Polar bears hunt in various ways but the main source of their high-fat diet is the blubber of
Arctic seals. He has been known to paddle as far as 25 miles to reach a likely hunting place. The polar bear can
smell farther than it can see and its hearing is also extremely acute. The bear's sense of vision, though,
appears to be poor and it is probably myopic, or short-sighted..
Polar Bears Enemy
Despite the polar bear's awesome size it does not live completely free of danger. Large seals, nimbler in
the water than the bears, sometimes harry and nip at a swimming polar bear, and Arctic wolves on the mainland
may try to separate a mother bear from her young.
But though man is its worst enemy, the only animal a
polar bear really fears is the walrus. Powerful and belligerent, the ivory-tusked walrus is more than a match
for the polar bear. They are at constant enmity with the walrus and frequently both the combatants will
perish in the conflict
Polar Bear attack walrus
If a bear knows that a walrus is in the water nearby, it will not go in because if they do meet in the walrus's
attack element, the bear is likely to be the loser. The sea mammal will drive its ivory tusks their
full length into the bear. Sometimes the bear has time to make an attack in return before the tusks kill it,
and because of that the bodies of a bear and a walrus have several times been found locked together in death.
However on the dry land a polar bear attack is usually fatal for a walrus.
Polar Bear pictures (attacks)
Polar bears, Nanook, the great white bear
The most famous of the spirit bears was found at Alernerk near the present village of Igloolik in
the Canadian Arctic. It is carved from ivory, 6 inches long, and it was made about 1,500 years a go.
The bear's body is elongate and it seems to fly. It is engraved with a stylized skeleton and there is a
tiny compartment in its neck, with a sliding cover which once may have held red ocher.
It probably depicts the spirit helper of a shaman.
Old men in the north still speak with respect of Nanook, the great white bear. But the world of magic,
when men and bear belonged to one realm, has ended and Southern man, whose culture swept the north of
its ancient beliefs, had no reverence for polar bears.
To him bear was a foe to satisfy the age-old craving of the mighty exotica. He caught the bear,
baited it and often killed it with fiendish cruelty, and he slaughtered it in hecatombs to amuse the plebs.
During one famous day in 237 A.D. in the Colosseum, while 50,000 spectators jeered and cheered,
gladiators killed more than 1,000 bears, a spectacle sponsored by an immensely wealthy Roman who later
became Emperor Gordian I.
The Polar Bear - The Ultimate Bear
The polar bear was the ultimate bear, white, huge, mysterious. The Jesuit missionary Bellarmine Lafortune
noted in the 1930 "A polar bear was hunted on foot and the hunter's greatest prestige came from his success
as a polar bear hunter". It was an extremely risky hunt. The ice often drifted away and many a King Islander,
hot in pursuit of a polar bear, was cut off from his home in this way; some returned safely
but others disappeared forever.
When a hunter returned with a bear, ancient ceremonies were observed to propitiate the bear's soul,
for during all this time, the spirit of the great white bear hovered unseen, but strangely felt, about the
village. If offended, it would depart in anger, and evil might strike the entire community. The bear's skull
was taken to the kagri, the communal house, and placed upon a raised bench.
It remained in this place of honor
until the polar bear dance. Gifts were placed near the bear skull: skin scrapers, needle cases and ulus,
the semi-lunar woman's knife, if the bear was a female, and a carving knife or drill, if the bear was a male.
The gifts had their own spirits and essence, and these became the property of the bear's inua, its soul.
The magic power of polar bears
To absorb the magic power of the bear, many Inuit wore amulets, most often a bear tooth as a pendant.
The Inuit shaman needed more; he wanted the bear's spirit to be his tornaq, his magic helper. It was a quest
fraught with enormous danger. The bear spirit, the "flying bear" could take the shaman to the moon, or deep
into the sea, to seek help for his people, the mother of seals and whales and walruses. And the bear spirit
could protect his master from the power of evil.
Polar Bear Facts
- Name: Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Subclass: Theria
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Ursidae
- Age at Maturity: 3 o 5 years
- Length of life: 20 - 30 years in the wild.
- Size: 130 to 190 cm
- Weight: 400 to 600 kg males
200 to 300 kg females
- Habitat: Annual ice adjacent to shorelines throughout the circumpolar Arctic
- Diet: Seals, narwhals, walruses, belugas, grass, kelp and berries
- Gestation: 6 to 9 months
- Cubs: Average 2
- SubFamily: Ursinae
- Genus: Ursus
- Polar Bear Predators: Human, wolves (two known records of polar bear cubs killed by packs of wolves),
- Distribution (Where do polar bears live): Throughout the circumpolar Arctic, as far south as Newfoundland