What is a white and furry mammal that lives near the North Pole? It’s the polar bear!
Mammals are animals that give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. They also have hair or fur, like humans or bears. Polar bears are one kind of animal that lives in some of the coldest environments on Earth, including the northern coasts of North America and the Arctic Islands.
Polar bears are one of the biggest bears in the world: males weigh up to 1,600 pounds and females up to 550. These bears typically range from eight to ten feet in length and can live up to 30 years. However, they usually only live 15 to 18.
This white giant is surprisingly agile for its massive weight and size. Its snowshoe-like paws and thick white fur help it survive the barren landscapes in which it lives. Its paws are large and round, which helps the animal swim long distances and spread its weight out on ice. This mammal's paws work just as well on land, though.
The polar bear’s stunning white coat is great for keeping it warm and helping the animal camouflage. Hiding well allows the bear to hunt for seals. Another useful trait is the animal's claws—the polar bear uses them for griping prey. The polar bear’s long, narrow head has small white ears and a sensitive nose with an acute sense of smell. The polar bear also has jaws that hold 42 teeth including four sharp canines.
Mating season for polar bears typically runs from April to May. Between those months, the animals tend to get intense and violent. The behavior of males in search of females can be very aggressive. Because mothers stay with their cubs for three years, males fight for the remaining females. These battles usually end with one male dead or seriously injured. The winning male ultimately gets to mate with the sought-after female.
After mating, female polar bears have to double their weight while pregnant. They generally have two cubs, but some may have up to four.
Polar bears are heavily affected by climate change. In fact, they have been on the endangered species list since May of 2008. The ice around the North Pole melts earlier and earlier each year because of warmer global temperatures. This leaves less time for polar bears, who travel, to return to get back to their original homes. Polar bears stranded on the mainland often starve due to a lack of food in their isolated region.
Humans must work to protect polar bears. Otherwise, they may be reduced to relics in childrens' textbooks with a definite and scary label—“extinct.”
[Source: Encyclopedia of Animals]