Happy International Polar Bear Day!
Ontario’s frozen ocean coast and the ice flows of Hudson Bay and James Bay are home to the world’s largest four-legged predator. The story of the polar bear is one of survival and adaptation in one of the coldest regions of the world.
Polar bears are able to withstand brutally cold temperatures thanks to their dense fur, thick layer of blubber, and large size. Males can weigh up to 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds)! They are so well insulated that they are almost invisible to heat detection (infrared) photography.
Although it appears white, the polar bear’s fur is actually translucent. Polar bears appear white because each hair is a hollow, transparent tube that reflects the sun’s heat, which is then absorbed by their black fur.
The scientific name of this bear, sea bear, reflects the aquatic habits of the species. These mammals are excellent swimmers that cover long distances and have been seen 60 km from the coast.
Their diet consists mainly of seals that are hunted on the sea ice in winter. In late summer, when the ice has broken up, bears are forced to move to the coastal tundra. During this period they generally do not feed but rely on stored body fat.
The polar bear is an at-risk species and with sea ice reducing, climate change is a major concern for its future survival. With rising temperatures, evidence indicates that the extent and duration of Arctic sea ice will continue to decline. This means that bears will have fewer opportunities to hunt seals.
Polar Bear Provincial Park, located on the southern shore of Hudson Bay, protects approximately 70% of Ontario’s maternal dens where these bears are born. At 2,355,200 hectares, Polar Bear Provincial Park is the largest park in the Ontario park system.
Polar Bear Provincial Park is located on the traditional territories of the Weenusk, Attawapiskat and Fort Severn First Nations.
Polar Bear Provincial Park underwent the largest Environmental Remediation Project ever completed within a protected area!