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Back to normality after yesterday’s rather earnest effort.

This one is for Susan Mac Nicol, who genuinely has polar bears as her Favourite Animal on her blog at http://susanmacnicol.tumblr.com/post/50937296140/the-sunshine-award-may-2013 , and Imogen, the delightful daughter of my equally delightful and very long-suffering fan Victoria Wright, mum par excellence and part time hitwoman. Honest, what Victoria doesn’t know about firearms is not worth knowing. She can handle an Eagle .50 semi-auto without even blinking. Scary stuff. Don’t ever let her loose with a Destroyer shotgun. You would be dead meat. Then she’d go and bake a nice cake without even breaking sweat.

Back to polar bears. Firstly, this particular polar bear is not going to kill you, because it’s clearly not fully ripe.

cub

Not yet it won’t. When it grows from a cuddlywuddly few ounces to a not so cuddlywuddly 800 or 900 lbs, it’s going to be a different story. The biggest polar bear ever recorded was a whopping great 2209 lbs, only just south of a ton. That’s a long ton, 2240 lbs, not a sissy American short ton of 2000 lbs. That’s a whole heap of bear.

One way you might avoid being killed is to simply hole up somewhere and wait it out. Polar bears typically only live to about 15 to 18 years, (though up to 40 in captivity), so with a bit of patience you could hang on till it dies. It’ll be chilly, so make sure you take plenty of socks.

I think polar bears may have a short life expectancy because they have a diet that makes your arteries go ‘Clang!’ just thinking about it. They are classed as carnivorous, but the major component of their diet is not meat but fat. When they catch a seal, their main prey, they eat the skin and subcutaneous fat first, and often leave the rest of the carcase for scavengers, including Polar Bear Minor, as they say in English public schools.

This is a smart move. Digestion of protein uses water, while when fat is digested it actually releases water. The main reason for the diet though is that fat is highly calorific, and these big suckers need a lot of energy just to survive. A 120 lb seal will keep a polar bear going for about 6 to 8 days, but the bear needs a lot more than that to store up fat reserves for when times are hard. When the going gets really tough, full grown adults may even tackle a beluga whale, or a walrus. That takes some cojones.

Presumably they live longer in captivity because the dietician sorts out their cholesterol intake and puts them on a strict exercise regime.

Some more snippets of information. The males will indulge in play fighting. Really, they will. One will approach another male on all fours without making eye contact. Then it nudges its ‘opponent’ with its head, and the play fight begins. They stand on their hind legs and try to push each other over. It’s Queensbury Rules for polar bears. Rather beautifully, although polar bears are by nature solitary, males who have had a good playfight may bond, and form friendships that can last for many years as they haunt the ice floes that are their natural habitat. That’s rather nice, don’t you think?

Just as a matter of interest, did you know that polar bears have been seen swimming 200 miles from land? No, I didn’t think you knew that.

Polar bear fur isn’t white, it’s colourless. The shaggy outer guard layer is composed not of hair but hollow tubes. These tubes reflect all the wavelengths of natural light from the airspace within, and so look white. Handy, eh? When you live surrounded by snow?

Big as they are, polar bears have reduced in size as they have evolved. They are related to brown bears, and appeared about 100,000 years ago, a mere blink in the evolutionary eye.

You won’t outrun one, that’s for sure. They’re pretty nippy, big as they are; you can’t run at 25 mph. They have an advantage over you too, in that their paws are hairy to provide more grip on ice. If you’re in the open, it’s pretty much all over.

I was prompted to re-open this ursine discussion by a small article in the i newspaper. A scientific research group in Norway is looking for a polar bear spotter to protect scientists working in the Arctic Circle. The job specification includes the following, and I am not making this up.

  • Must like an outdoor lifestyle
  • Must have firearms skills
  • Must be experienced at spotting polar bears

No shit, Sherlock! Sounds like a job for Victoria, She could probably make some banana bread while she’s at it.

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