In the vast Canadian Arctic, Ursus maritimus is king. Like its homeland, it is massive – males can weigh up to 800 kilograms and females about 400 kilograms. Although Polar Bears inhabit Arctic coasts around the world, Canada hosts the largest population on earth: about 15,000 of the global total of approximately 25,000. Distinct for its creamy white coloring, the Polar Bear is well adapted for its home. Perhaps the Polar Bear’s most important adaptation is its ability to slow its metabolism to survive lean times: its body will automatically go into energy conservation mode if it has not eaten for about a week. Ironically, this massive apex predator is born tiny and helpless. Weighing less than a kilogram with very fine hair, Polar Bear cubs – usually born in sets of two – enter the world in the relative warmth and safety of the maternal den. Mother and cubs will wait there for several months until the cubs are strong enough to survive the cold. Beginning around March, the cubs accompany their mother on hunts for their food staple, the ringed seal. Their exceptional sense of smell is powerful enough to detect a seal’s breathing hole in the ice from a kilometer away. The cubs will stay with their mother until they are about two and a half years old, creating a three-year breeding cycle that helps to explain the slow growth of Polar Bear populations.
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