Polar Bears Life Cycle
A Look at the Polar Bear’s Lifecycle
The polar bear is truly a remarkable creature and while most people know this animal lives in cold regions and loves fish, many do not know about the polar bear’s lifecycle. Today, the polar bear can be seen in zoos and other animal displays across the country but the opportunity to witness this animal in its natural habitat is an even more special experience. More and more, information is being provided to the public as a means of doing whatever is possible to ensure the polar bear never becomes extinct.
For starters, it is important to learn additional facts about this bear before moving into information about the polar bear’s lifecycle. Cubs are typically born in the months of January or February with the mother giving birth to one, possibly two to four cubs. Unfortunately, some cubs simply do not survive past the first year of life due to becoming prey or not handling the harsh environment.
To help the cub reach full maturity, which is between five and six years of age, most cubs will remain with the mother until around two to two and one-half years of age. Prior to giving birth, the mother polar bear will stay in a cave or some other protected area, and will remain out of the ocean water during fall and winter months as a way of protecting her unborn. Gestation is nine months, during which time the mother commonly loses as much as 700 pounds.
From the beginning of the polar bear’s lifecycle to the time it dies around age 25 to 30, numerous changes occur. As mentioned, most cubs remain with the mom until two, after which time they will begin to move out on their own. During these years, the mother polar bear teaches her cubs how to walk, hunt, swim, and find protection when needed. As a part of the polar bear’s lifecycle starting with being no larger than a puppy when born, within the first year the cub would be close to the same size as its mother.
Another interesting fact about the polar bear’s lifecycle is that in the summertime, the fur turns yellow but then in the wintertime, it becomes snow white. Interestingly, beneath the fur is black skin. Upon reaching adulthood, the polar bear will measure more than eight feet tall if a male and more than six feet tall if a female. Males, which are called boars, typically grow up to three times the size of females, reaching more than 1,400 pounds whereas females, which are called sows, weight about 500 pounds.
Other physical characteristics seen during a polar bear’s lifecycle is having longer hind limbs than forelimbs, having large and stocky legs, and feet with five toes. Compared to the body, the polar bear’s feet are quite large, usually measuring 12 inches in diameter. The pads are also unique in that they are padded to prevent the animal from slipping on ice. Another interesting fact is that while the back paws are elongated, the front paws are round. Then, each of the bear’s toes feature a thick, curved non-retractable claw that makes climbing on ice easy.
During the polar bear’s lifecycle, 42 teeth will grow, which are long and sharp to help catch fish and other food, as well as fighting. To remove blubber and flesh from caught fish, the incisors are used for shearing, tough hides are removed using the canine teeth, and to help tear and chew food, the polar bear uses jagged premolars. Although this amazing animal has extremely strong teeth, food is usually swallowed in very large chunks instead of chewing.
Finally, during the polar bear’s lifecycle, the fur plays a very important role in survival. For instance, the only parts of the body without fur are the footpads and nose. The fur is so thick, about one and one-half inch, it serves as a natural coat. The under hair is the layer that helps insulate the body, which is covered by guard hairs that are stiff, shiny, and clear. In addition, throughout the polar bear’s lifecycle, the oily and water repellant fur allows the bear to enter frigid water to find food or just play but in May or June, the bear molts whereby its fur is shed and then grown again for the next year.