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Polar Bears continue to be an endangered species

Posted in Animals, Conservation, Nature, Wildlife on Monday, 6 January 2014

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This edited article about wildlife first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 503 published on 4 September 1971.

Polar Bears, picture, image, illustration

Polar Bear and Cubs

The Arctic Regions once provided a secure sanctuary for the Polar Bear, adapted to the rigours of this inhospitable area that stretches from Greenland to Alaska.

Moving freely over the pack-ice on its broad, hairy-soled feet, with head swinging from side to side, as if continually smelling out its prey, the Polar Bear hunts for its favourite food, the seal.

The two young are born in the depths of winter, the mother burying herself deep in the snow where she stays to suckle and look after her cubs. The Polar Bear is a slow-breeder because the young cubs are dependent on their mother for as long as two years. A litter can only be produced every third year because of this.

Bears are not really so dangerous as is commonly supposed, and they will always avoid a human if at all possible. It is only when they are deliberately attacked or alarmed that they become fierce. Once provoked, however, they can be one of the most ferocious and dangerous beasts in the world.

With its powerful, heavy build, great limbs and claws, this bear has a wonderful agility both on land and in the sea.

With few natural enemies except the killer whale and walrus, its chance of survival was good. So long as the Polar Bear was hunted by Eskimos with only dogs and spears, it was difficult to kill. It had little fear of men.

But now the Eskimo has a gun. So does the European; and in addition to a gun – a helicopter. An Eskimo, armed with primitive weapons and stalking the ice in a primitive craft of skins and whalebone, is one thing; but a helicopter landing on the ice floe, a passenger at the ready with a high-powered firearm, is an enemy against which an unfortunate bear has little chance.

Even if the bear can sense danger – his sense of smell is highly-developed – and quickly dives into the water, it cannot remain submerged for more than a few minutes.

The white man penetrates the Arctic Circle to hunt, trade and fish – especially for seals. The Polar Bear thus deprived of its main diet (seals), turns to other sources and thereby comes into closer contact with man.

The Polar Bear, a coveted prize, its meat and for invaluable, is hunted down by greedy and trigger-happy men. With their flying machines and powerful weapons they come to threaten this great animal with extinction.

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