Polar Bear Conundrum ...Instinct or Extinct?
January 6, 2010
Focusing on Alaska's Beauty
Author: K. Fields
The Polar Bear Conundrum ...Instinct or Extinct?
What a confusing mess...
What is anyone suppose to believe when it comes to Polar Bear information???
They are one of the largest carnivores (meat eater) on earth... yet they are depicted as cute cuddly animals in commercials and advertisements....
Another is that the Polar Bear count has grown impressively since they have regulated the hunting of them in the 1970s... Yet according to some groups that are using the Polar Bear for their poster child... the Polar Bears are few in number and will be extinct soon... IF WE DON'T DO SOMETHING QUICK... but... they have been pretty vague about what the "DO SOMETHING QUICK" should be, except that we should donate lots and lots of money and land to the cause... and preservation (???) of Polar Bears...
Don't get me wrong...I am all for taking care of our wildlife so that my great great great grandchildren will be able to see real wild animals alive and thriving in their natural habitat.
Oh! So what can the average everyday just trying to survive myself person believe?
I don't know!!!
SOOOoooooo.... I will just stick to facts for now... with just a touch of my personal views...
It has become well known in the past couple of years to a great many people that Alaska has Polar Bears... People sorta knew it already but never really thought about it, until they come to Alaska for a visit and expected to see Polar Bears running around everywhere and are terribly disappointed when they find out that not all of Alaska is host to this large bear.
The Polar Bears in Alaska are located in what I call the coldest edges of Alaska... the land mass of Alaska that have shorelines to the Beaufort Sea (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Prudhoe Bay). Arctic Ocean (Barrow and Wainwright), Chukchi Sea (Point Hope and Kotzebue)... and Bering Sea (Nome, St. Lawrence Island)... just to name a few... All these places are pretty far from where I am located in the Interior of Alaska, and even further away from what I call the warm edges of Alaska. But then again... these other areas in Alaska without Polar Bears have the huge Grizzly bears roaming around, and the considerable smaller black bears.
Polar Bears are huge!
A healthy adult Polar Bear's length can range anywhere from 6 to a little over 9 feet. Their weight ranges typically from 780 to 1500 pounds. The largest Polar Bear on record reportedly weighing 2210 pounds was shot in Kotzebue Sound located in Northwestern Alaska in the year 1960... Now that is a big bear!
There was a Polar Bear that's taxidermied (Taxidermy is the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals, and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form) and on display at one of the airports here in Alaska. I was standing near it and it towered over me seeming to be almost double my height. The claws on the paws are longer then my whole hand, in fact... the paw is twice the size of my head. It really brought home to me the realization of just how big these bears are, and how much I don't want to ever meet up with one on a cold dark iceberg!
Most documentaries that I've seen, show Polar bears in water most of the time. Yet... did you know their maximum running speed is 25 miles per hour? Wow...I had no idea their running speed was that fast... But their swimming speed averages out to about 6 miles per hour.. They usually walk slowly while on solid ground because the heavy layer of fat (that can be up to 4.3 inches thick) will cause them to overheat if they move quickly for extended periods of time.
They are covered in a heavy coat of white fur that can range 1 to 8 inches in length. The longer furs are on their underbellies. They actually have two layers of fur, the outer coat is white, long and water repellant, the under coat is short finer dense fur, these two layers insulate the bears keeping them warm even in the coldest of waters and ice. Another unique thing is that the skin under the fur is black which helps in absorbing the rays of the arctic sun.
As I mentioned before about the enormous size paws... they give the bear a natural advantage that is similar to us wearing snowshoes... the wide width helps to evenly distribute the weight which keeps the bears from breaking thru ice and snow. I am sure that wide width is a benefit in the water too, similar to four large boat paddles/oars or as fins/flippers in the water which would help greatly in navigating through the water smoothly and quickly. The pads of the paws are almost completely covered with fur and soft, tiny growths called papillae, which increase friction between paw and ice and reduce the chance of slipping, and protects the pads from the frozen ground and ice.
The female Polar Bears are ready to breed at the age of 4 or 5 years, and the males at the age of 6. The females will eat enough to double their weight so that they will have enough reserves to care for the cubs and they usually have a den dug deeply in the ice or snow for the new cubs which will arrive anywhere between November and February. There are usually two cubs and when they are born their weight averages around 2 pounds... likened to the size of a guinea pig, and they leave the den when they reach around 25 pounds. Most Polar Bears live to around 25 years of age.
There has been some speculation on the Polar Bears and what they will do if their lifestyles are changed by climate changes. Some believe they will just die off and become extinct. Others believe they will adapt and breed with the grizzly bear, starting a whole new breed of bear.
There has been some Polar Bears that have cross-breed with Grizzlies in Zoos. But there has only been one documented case of a cross-bred bear in their natural habitat... actually it was shot and killed and the hunter noticed that what he thought was a Polar Bear had some large brown areas of fur and the claws were longer then normal for a Polar Bear.. So the professionals tested the DNA and they confirmed that this bear was the result of cross breeding between a Polar Bear and Grizzly Bear...
Now... if this is what is to happen and a whole new breed of bear is born.. Then the REAL question is.... What will they be called??? Some have already been trying out new names of this Hybrid bear.. Some are calling it a Pizzly and others are calling it a Grolar Bear.. If you ask me neither one of these name justify what an amazing bear this would be. Two of the largest carnivores on Earth breed... One is white, one is brown, one likes colder climates, the other seems to thrive in the warmer land areas.
So in my guesstimation using my non-professional opinion... This new hybrid bear will be able to survive in either extreme... or... in-between climates. It will be well adapted to swim or walk great distances. It will be mixture of white and brown in colors, which means it will be able to blend into just about any terrain easily. It will be great in size.. And a stealth hunter. Wow! Sounds like a pretty amazing creature.
So when you look at all the amazing attributes of this hybrid bear... the names "Pizzly" or "Grolar" just don't seem to cut it for a description.. Maybe it needs it's own unique identifier rather then putting the two breed names together. Like... Preponderant-X... but then again ... Yelling.... "HELP! PREPONDERANT-X IS COMING"... while running for your life... sounds like maybe it would be a tad too long of a name. So maybe GrizzPo... would be better. Maybe my readers can come up with a good name.. Let me know in the comment section!
In my own observations of the wildlife and climate for as many years as I've been alive. I have noticed that there always seems to be cycles to everything.. Some cycles last a few years, others for many.. But there is always some sort of cycle. Those who depend on wild animals as a food source rely on how consistent those cycles are.
Just for an example... The Arctic Hare in Alaska has a well known population cycle, it is pretty consistent and reliable, say this year the rabbit population will be sparse which we then know that the animals that feed on the Hares will be low in number too, but we also know that this is temporary, because after it reaches it lowest population point, it will start climbing back up again and in approximately 9 years we will be overrun by Arctic Hare and the wildlife that gets it's sustenance from eating it. Which in turn during the next 9 years the Hare population will dwindle down again.. This is the kind of cycle I am talking about. I believe it's the way God created it to be, possibly so that the animal numbers do not overwhelm or completely die off... Nature takes care of itself.
So the climate changes some think we are experiencing now, may be a cycle that we don't have a complete understanding of yet... and the animals will do what their instincts lead them to do... They have better instinctual survival skills then we people have only because we have let our own natural instincts go dormant and replaced them with cars, electronics etc... But I am quite sure ours will kick back in if we need them again. So I truly believe the Polar Bear will adapt to extreme weather, land masses or bodies of water changes that happen... We could probably learn a few things from studying their adaptive ways!
See Also: Grizzly Situation!
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