The distinctive profiles of polar bears are easily recognized by children and adults all over the world, and yet they live farther from population centers than almost any other creature. They inhabit the inhospitable Arctic regions of a small number of countries.
And polar bears are major attractions in zoos around the world — they are big, noble, and undeniably cute. They are among the largest carnivores on Earth and can weigh more than 10 adult humans. Yet their cubs are tiny, weighing much less than human babies.
Polar bears are extraordinarily well adapted to their harsh environments. They have two layers of fur to keep them warm and a layer of blubber that provides insulation, stores nutrition, and helps them float. While their fur looks white, it is actually transparent, which helps the bears blend in with their snowy surroundings. In what might come as a surprise to casual observers, polar bears also have black skin underneath their fur that helps soak up the sun’s warmth. As a result, they can survive in temperatures that would quickly kill other animals. Their sense of smell, among the best in the animal kingdom, helps them find the seals that are a mainstay of their diet. Plus, they are excellent swimmers.
Yet, polar bears are vulnerable to climate change, as rising temperatures cause sea ice to form later each year and melt earlier, resulting in a loss of habitat and less time for hunting for food. In addition, a recent proposal from the Trump administration could open the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas drilling, further jeopardizing the area’s wildlife and their habitat.
To bring attention to the issues these magnificent beasts face, conservationists in recent years have celebrated Feb. 27 as International Polar Bear Day. To mark the occasion, and to do our bit to raise awareness, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled 25 facts about polar bears that just might surprise you.