Polar Bears: King Ot the Arctic
Location: North Svalbard (only 700 miles from the North Pole), known as the High Arctic
Highlight of the Day: Andrew Clarke's lecture on climate change (see my blog on Climate Change for more on this) and spotting another polar bear
What I Learned:
Polar bears are amazing. They depend on snow and ice. In fact, the balls of their feet have hundreds of suction cups and can be 12" wide- that is quite the 'foot'.
A fat polar bear is a healthy polar bear. Without seals, they would starve. As long as there is plenty of ice, there will be plenty of seals. Their main prey are ringed sealed and bearded seals. However, they only eat the blubber. However, cubs will eat the meat for protein. Polar bears 'cache' their prey to mask the scent to keep other bears away, which we actually witnessed- the seal was buried in snow.
A male polar bears weighs about 350-700kg (about the same as a small car) and matures after 6-7 years. A female polar bear weights 150-250kg and matures after 4-6 years- they are one of the largest carnivores in the world. A female polar bear may produce 10-15 cubs in her lifetime. Fact: Only 1/3 of females are available to mate. Polar bears are mostly solitary animals, and cubs are sometimes killed by males to put the females back into breeding.
Sea ice is their platform. Without ice, polar bears cannot survive. The sea ice is melting faster than they can adapt. What is the future of the polar bears- and us? If the polar bears can't survive climate change- which they have proven to be survivors and resilient, then I don't know how humans will.