Every year, on February 27, the world celebrates International Polar Bear Day. With our planet's gradual warming in the last few decades or so due to climate change, the plight of Polar bears have become the proverbial Canary in the Coal Mine for our fragile planet.
The Polar bear is the largest living land carnivore, with adult males growing to over 8 feet in length and some weighing close to one ton. The heaviest recorded bear was about 2,300 lbs. There is also evidence the largest Kodiak Brown bears in Alaska can grow to about the same weight. The Polar bear is immediately recognizable from the distinctive white color of its thick fur. The only parts of the body not covered by fur are the foot pads and the tip of its nose, which are black, revealing the dark color of the skin underneath the pelt.
The neck of the Polar bear is longer than in other species of bears, and the elongated head has small ears. Polar bears have large strong limbs and huge front paws which are used as paddles for swimming. The toes are not webbed, but are excellent for walking on snow as they bear non-retractable claws which dig into the snow like ice-picks.
Females are about half the size of males, although a pregnant female with stored fat can exceed 1,000 pounds in weight. Polar bear cubs weigh about 2 lbs at birth. They look similar in appearance to adults, though they have much thinner fur. Polar bears are found throughout the circumpolar Arctic on ice-covered waters, from Canada, to Norway, parts of the US, the former USSR and Greenland. The furthest south the Polar bears occur all year round is James Bay in Canada, which is about the same latitude as London. During the winter, when the ice extends further south, Polar bears move as far south as Newfoundland and into the northern Bering Sea.
Although Polar bears have no natural predators, male bears sometimes kill young cubs for food or to try and mate with their mothers. In addition, there are also isolated poaching incidents and limited trophy hunting permitted by law. Another big threat to these endangered animals is the warming of the Arctic region and pack ice are forming later and later every year. Polar bears depend on the pack ice to hunt seals and the early ice melt is forcing them to spend more time and energy looking for food and finding fewer seals. They face an uncertain future as the sea ice melt faster and faster in the summer.
My readers know I am The Wildlife Ho-tographer. One of my favorite animals in wildlife photography is the Polar bear. You can see my equipment bag and works on MichaelDanielHo.com