21 Strange But True Polar Bear Facts

They’re the mightiest predators of the Arctic, the masters of the ice and ocean. But disappearing ice might soon spell their doom. Here are 21 polar bear facts to help you appreciate these incredible animals before time runs out:

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Polar Bear Facts

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images Though polar bears appear to be white, their fur is actually pigment-free and transparent, with a hollow core that merely reflects the largely white light around them. Underneath their fur, their skin is black.

Polar Bear Hunt

BBC/YouTubePolar bears throw tantrums if a seal happens to escape their clutches: They've been been seen pounding the ice with their paws or throwing blocks of ice around after a failed hunt.

Staring Polar Bear

Sean Gallup/Getty Images Polar bears are the largest land-based predators on Earth: Males can weigh as much as 1,700 pounds and grow up to ten feet in length.

Newborn Resting

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesAlthough some adult polar bears can be nearly the size of a small car, they are born weighing just over one pound. For comparison's sake, most people weigh around seven pounds when they're born.

Polar Bear Manitoba

Guy Clavel/AFP/Getty ImagesChurchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear Capital of the World (there are 1,000 bears in the region, and only a little more than 800 people) boasts a booming polar bear spotting tourism industry. But they also have a polar bear prison.

Polar bears often wander into the town, rifle through trash cans, and sometimes even eat dogs. Offending bears are tranquilized and sent to the prison, a former aircraft hangar, where they're kept in cells, and only fed ice water for a few days before being released. The idea is to make their stay so unpleasant, they won't return.

Mom Cub

Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears are great mothers. They take care of their cubs for a little over two years and protect them from aggressive males. A University of Calgary study found that female polar bears will sometimes adopt abandoned cubs into their own broods.

Mom Protecting Cub

Carmen Jaspersen/AFP/Getty Images Unlike most other bears, the polar bear does not hibernate — only pregnant polar bears retreat to dens in the colder months.

Polar Bear Family

Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty ImagesFemale polar bears stay with their cubs in the den for four to eight months. During this period, the mother fasts, then the whole family emerges from the den to hut for seals.

Swimming Underwater

Bill Pugliano/Getty ImagesThe polar bear's Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means "sea bear," and for good reason. Their front paws, which they use as paddles, are webbed, and they have been seen swimming as far as 200 miles from land. They need to be able to swim to travel between ice floes, which polar bears are dependent on for hunting.

Polar Bear Friends Walking

Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears are generous with their friends: Another polar bear might ask to share food with others of his kind by slowly approaching and rubbing his nose against the other bear's nose before the two chow down on a freshly killed seal.

Polar Bear Ice Sitting

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images A polar bear can eat 100 pounds of ringed seal blubber in one sitting.

Climbing Polar Bear

Britta Pederson/AFP/Getty Images When hunting, their noses can detect a seal from up to a mile away.

Bloody Polar Bear

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images Nevertheless, though polar bears spend more than 50 percent of their time hunting for food, fewer than 2 percent of their hunts are successful.

Running Youngster

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesWhile polar bears almost always prefer a slow, ambling walk of just three or so miles per hour, these fearsome predators can sprint, over short distances, at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

Bears In London

Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesEngland's King Henry III had a collection of exotic animals that he kept in the Tower of London. He called one of this pets the “white bear;” historians agree that it was polar bear. The animal was a gift from King Haakon of Norway in 1252. A long leash was made for the bear so it could swim in the Thames and catch fish.

Polar Bear Portrait

Peter Steffen/AFP/Getty Images The Inuit people worship a God-like polar bear called Nanook. According to their mythology, he brings the Inuit luck during the hunt, and if hunters did not pay Nanook respect, they would catch no bears.

Polar Bear Walking Snow

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears live around the North Pole, in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Norway. Contrary to popular myths, that means penguins and polar bears have never encountered each other in the wild: Penguins reside in Antarctica while polar bears can only be found in the Arctic.

Wet Polar Bear

Pete Steffen/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears roll in the snow and go for dips in the ocean to keep clean, and, strangely enough, to stay cool. With a layer of blubber under their fur 4.5 inches thick, polar bears often overheat when they run, even if their Arctic habitat.

Polar Bear Ice Sheet

Melting ice floes present the biggest threat to the polar bear's survival. Due to insufficient ice floes, one polar bear recently swam for nine days straight — a record 426 miles — in search of food. She lost 22 percent of her body weight on the epic journey, and her cub.

Two Polar Bear Cubs

Christoff Stache/AFP/Getty ImagesIn 2011, polar bear biologist Ian Stirling observed male polar bears regularly preying on polar bear cubs — usually a rare occurrence. He hypothesized that seals have become less accessible as global warming causes ice floes in the Arctic sea to melt. Cut off from their regular diet, polar bears may be more prone to cannibalism.

Polar Bear Close Up

John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images In 2008, the United States listed polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists predict that two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by 2050 if climate change continues to melt ice floes.

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Inside The Strangest Museum On Earth

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Dead People Cabinet

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumShrunken heads, skulls, and more in the Cabinet Dedicated to Dead People.

Kitten Skeleton

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesA skeleton of a two-headed kitten.

Amy Winehouse Poop

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd Museum"Celebrity Poos—Amy Winehouse—i, Viktor Wynd, do solemnly swear that i witnessed Amy Winehouse pooing into this jar on 25th Nov 2010—signed—Viktor Wynd—£120 or £5 for a snif.f"

Shrunken Head

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesA 19th century human shrunken head (left) along with several other items.

Lizard Erotica

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesLizard specimens accompanied by vintage erotica.


Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumA massive hairball as well as three smaller bladder stones, all taken from a cow's stomach.

Creepy Dolls

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd Museum"Inmates" from artist Stephen Wright's House of Dreams, a London museum influenced by the outsider art scene and consisting largely of found object sculptures and mosaics.

Pubic Hair

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images"Russell Brand's pubes."

Cat Skulls

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumA portion of the museum's collection of cat skulls.

Lion Tiger

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesA tiger skeleton (right), a Fijian merman on the ceiling, and a stuffed lion.

Kylie Minogue Poop

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images"Celebrity Poos—Kylie Minogue—i, Viktor Wynd, do solemnly swear that i witnessed Kylie Minogue doing this poo on the 10th Dec 2010—signed—Viktor Wynd—£120 or £5 for a sniff."

Wooly Pig

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumA wooly pig sits overtop an elephant egg and several other artifacts.

Animal Skulls

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumAnimal skulls accompanied by Japanese erotic figurines.

Dead Animals In Bottles

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumPreserved specimens of various aquatic creatures and parasites.


Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesA mumified dancing rat (second from right) along with other specimens including a stonefruit piglet fetus (left).

Shrunken Heads

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumThree shrunken heads.

Congo Masks

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumMasks collected in the Congo by Viktor Wynd.

Bird Cabinet

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumThe Bird Cabinet.

Scabies Mite

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumEnlarged wax model of a scabies mite.

Fairy Sculpture

Oskar Proctor/The Viktor Wynd MuseumA skeletal sculpture of a fairy constructed by London-based artist Tessa Farmer.

Lion Fez Viktor Wynd

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesViktor Wynd alongside a stuffed lion.

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