Arctic Ocean Europe Map

Like the Inuit themselves they will wait patiently at a seal’s ice breathing hole for it to appear, before suddenly and speedily swiping one massive paw to stun the seal and then swiftly sinking their jaws into it. Some seals will clamber out of their holes to rest and breathe more easily and then a bear may strike at incredible speed. Instinctively understanding this, it is rare for two seals to come out at the same time, as one would impede the other when trying to dive back through the hole to escape. Bears will also swim underneath the ice and water to attack, just raising the tips of their black snouts to breathe occasionally. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that some bears when moving forward to attack hold one paw over their snout to avoid the blackness giving their intentions away. They do not drink water; they get all the liquid they need from the animals they eat.

A strange fact is that polar bears are left-handed, presumably it’s not usually that relevant as a blow from either paw is just as damaging. How this can be definitively known I’m not really certain as obviously not all polar bears can have been checked. Surely there must be one bear out there who uses his or her right hand! In boxing terminology a left-handed boxer is called a southpaw, whereas, given the fact that polar bears only live in the northern Arctic and never in the southern Antarctic, this seems somewhat of a misnomer.

Arctic Ocean Europe Map Photo Gallery

A bear, usually to preserve energy, can sleep in any position. It spends about a quarter of its time sleeping and particularly likes to sleep after eating. However, meals can be a few days apart or even a few months. That is why its main preoccupation is to keep its body at the right temperature and to store sufficient energy, in readiness to claim its next meal. The bear’s fur is unlike that of any other mammal. There are two thick layers of dense, white wool with shiny and strong guard hairs. They help to recycle the bear’s body heat back to the skin. These hairs are hollow and stay stiff even when wet so they don’t matt and the bear can therefore shake off water before it freezes.

Strange as it may seem, although their fur is white to help in camouflaging them against the snow, their skin underneath is black, this absorbs the heat from the sun and assists them in contending with intense cold temperatures. It is why most people in hot countries prefer to wear white robes or lightly-coloured clothes, rather than black or dark ones. It’s possibly why the huge, black furry hat worn by British guardsmen, sometimes called a Busby, is more usually known as a bearskin.

Polar bears do not hibernate though they may curl up to avoid a storm or to wait out the approach of prey or a change in temperature. When pregnant, a female bear can reduce her heartbeat and breathing considerably. In midwinter she will live within a den she has dug and usually gives birth to two tiny cubs, occasionally three or four. Because they keep their cubs for about two and a half years, on average only about one-third of females are available for reproduction each year. The mother bear produces the richest milk of all animals in the world and has four nipples to nurse her young.

The cubs develop rapidly and can hear and see within a month. Weeks later they can walk and smell. In a few months they will leave the den and accompany their mother as she forages and hunts for food. This is their learning period when they must come to understand the ways of hunting.

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