Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are native to the Circumpolar region of the Northern Hemisphere. Their territory overlaps the international boundaries of 5 nations - Alaska (US), Canada, Russia, Greenland (Denmark) and Norway.
Polar Bear - Natural Habitat
The natural habitat of polar bears is limited to the ice-covered areas around the North pole, which are shallow and near the shore. The 19 discrete polar bear populations, all seek shallow water areas, where the ocean currents deposit marine produce and the surface ice does not get threateningly solid. The polar bears are well-equipped for facing the extreme temperatures of -40ºC (-50ºF).
In fact, they are so used to the Arctic ice sheets that they cannot be rehabilitated anywhere, and therefore, protecting that ice is the only way we can possibly protect them.
Polar bears are not territorial in nature. In fact, they are known to roam large expanses (about 180 miles) of Arctic floes on a solitary 'go alone' basis.
Polar bears are unique and majestic animals, to boast of survival in one of the world's harshest climates. Their habitat includes both sea ice and land, they spend some part of the year either in the sea or on land. They can easily survive in the Arctic region due to their peculiarity of adjusting to extremely cold temperatures.
Every year in summer, seals migrate to other regions due to climatic changes and polar bears also travel with seals to ensure they have enough food resources to survive. They return to their previous destinations only when the water begins to freeze again. That's the reason, you can find them on the shore during summers and beginning of fall.
Polar bears top the arctic food chain and have humans as their only natural predators. Since they are huge animals, their daily food requirement is also very high. Their favorite food is seals, so they are known to spend half of the year on sea ice in search of their preferred prey; however, they can eat almost anything when they are extremely hungry. They do not drink water as most of their body water requirement is fulfilled by the seals they prefer to eat.
They are also known to hunt whales and walruses when the goings get tough. They can smell a whale carcass from over 20 miles away and their stand out black noses can be visible for 6 miles, from a pair of binoculars.
Polar bears are about 6 to 10 feet tall and weigh anything between 200 and 770 kg. It is only possible for them to survive in the harsh conditions of Arctic because of their prominent physical and behavioral adaptations. Their short, thin fur works so well against the cold, that they are in more danger of overheating than of catching a cold. They sport a short snout and small ears, which also keep the cold at bay.
The best adaptations are their teeth. Polar bear teeth are specialized tools for their 100% carnivorous diets. Their feet soles are specially designed to get a good grip on the ice floes and their claws are shorter and curvier than their other bear counterparts.
Their Quest for Survival
With a population of 20,000-32,000, polar bears are not considered endangered. However, one has to understand that those managing to survive today are seen with reduced body weight and high cub moralities. There is also a general decline in reproduction rates. The fall in polar bear numbers can be attributed to the loss of sea ice due to its rapid thinning and melting. Baby polar bears have many natural enemies to add to the already difficult physical conditions and the food scarcity problems.
Polar bear cubs are completely dependent on their mothers for a long time, which isn't surprising considering that they are born in what can be termed as the worst possible place to rear babies. Their life cycle ensures that a healthy amount of cubs are born annually, but survival is very difficult.
On May 14th, 2008, Polar Bears were declared a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This happened because of global warming and other threats, such as pollution, poaching and industrial externalities. The interrelationship of polar bears and global warming can be grasped from the following statistics. Between the 1960 and 1990, 32% of the Arctic sea ice has thinned. There has been a 9.8% decline in the year round sea ice since 1978.
So, how do we protect them? Just imagine if the earth was shrinking suddenly, at alarming rates, where would you stand? Imagine your extinction, and it will be easier to stop theirs.
Polar Bear Hunting and Retaliatory Attacks on Humans
Polar bear hunting cannot be banned, as it is a means of survival to locals in the harsh Arctic environment. Hunting in sustainable levels is allowed there, but the monitoring lacks luster. Illegal poaching of these beautiful animals is a very lucrative trade, as their fur and meat fetch good market prices. Polar bears carry a good trophy value as well.
In retaliation, they seem to recognize humans as their only powerful predator. Though rare, their attacks on humans are something that gives them really bad PR, when they obviously need a good word for active conservation efforts to gain global momentum.
Ordinary humans go by the motto - what doesn't affect us, doesn't concern us. Great people have the power and desire to save the tigers, fight for the giant pandas and rescue the polar bears. Ordinary people will wait for the Earth to shrink, great people will find a new world. Know this, and know this well, if these animals add to the extinct animals' list, you will be affected, irrespective of where you stay. So, we shouId try to conserve electricity, use biodegradable items and take public transport to do our bit against global warming.