The polar bear is a hypercarnivorous bear species with a natural range that includes the Arctic Ocean, its neighboring waters, and surrounding land masses. It is the world’s largest bear species, with males weighing around 770 to 1500 pounds. Polar bears are closely related to brown bears, but their name means “Sea Bear” since they spend a lot of time near the coast, and they are also strong and adept swimmers who have been seen up to 100 miles from the nearest ice or land. But since the only icy nation in the United States is Alaska, many of us wonder if polar bears live in Alaska. We’ll find the answer to that in this article.
Do Polar Bears Live in Alaska?
Yes, there are polar bears in Alaska. As a matter of fact, the northern state is the only region in the Americas where these Arctic giants are believed to thrive. The number of polar bears in Alaska is evaluated to be around 4,000 to 7,000. Two national park units, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument are the only ones to host polar bears with home ranges that extend within park limits.
Polar bears are animals that live along frigid shores, such as those of the Arctic Circle. Thus, Alaska is one of the countries where these gigantic bears thrive. Polar bears can be found in northern Canada in large numbers, with the remainder scattered across Greenland, Norway, Alaska, Svalbard, and Russia. They prefer to stay near the ocean and travel huge distances across the ice fields. Polar bear populations have plummeted across their natural habitat, with global warming posing the greatest threat to this massive animal.
Polar bears can be seen as far south as St. Lawrence Island in Alaska during the winter, and they frequently migrate down to St. Matthew Island and the Kuskokwim Delta. Research has revealed 19 distinct polar bear populations found in the state, including the Southern Beaufort Sea population and the Chukchi Sea population. The fauna of the Southern Beaufort Sea is often spotted along Alaska’s north coast and into the Canadian Beaufort Sea.
What Do Polar Bears in Alaska Look Like?
Polar bears, the world’s largest bear, and the Arctic’s greatest predator, are a striking symbol of endurance and strength. The Kodiak bear, a subspecies of brown bear, is the only other bear of equal size to the polar bear. Adult polar bears are often over 6 feet long and weigh over half a tonne. On the other hand, females are substantially lighter than their male counterparts, who weigh about twice as much. Polar bears are one of the few large mammals that can survive in harsh environments, and they have adapted admirably to life on the ice. Their fur is thick and dense, with a warm undercoat and longer guard hairs on top that are clear, hollow tubes that trap heat from the sun and send it directly to their ebony skin, which absorbs it.
The world’s largest polar bear weighed 2,209 pounds (1,002 kg) and was found in Alaska in 1960. The massive giant stood over 11 feet tall on its long legs. Even though polar bears are the largest bear species, in known conflicts between polar bears and grizzly bears, the grizzly bear usually stands its ground while the polar bear runs.
Where Are Polar Bears Found in Alaska?
Polar bears in Alaska can be found in two particular locations. Of these polar bear groups, the Southern Beaufort Sea population settles along Alaska’s northern coast down to the Canadian Beaufort Sea area. The other group, the Chukchi Sea population, is commonly spotted in Alaska’s western region, reaching as far west as Wrangel Island and eastern Siberia, and St Matthew Island in the Bering Sea to the south.
During the spring, polar bears prefer to stay near the pack ice because it provides them with a platform to hunt seals. Also, in the spring, pregnant females come out of dens on land or barrier islands. Most polar bears stay with the pack ice during the summer melting season as it recedes north. Polar bears will come on land to rest along the Beaufort Sea coast until late October, when shore-fast ice begins to form along the coast, and the pack ice moves south. Polar bears can be found on Alaska’s north and northwest shores all year. The greatest time to observe one is during the summer season, as the sea ice splits up and drifts away from the shoreline.
What Do Polar Bears Eat?
Polar bears are among the largest, strongest, and heftiest carnivorous predators on the planet, consuming a wide range of meat sources from small mammals to prey as huge as reindeer. Polar bears consume berries, birds, fish, reindeer, and the occasional walrus, in addition to seals. Marine mammal carcasses, such as walruses, seals, and even whales, provide a constant food supply for polar bears, which are claimed to have such a keen sense of smell that they can detect them from a great distance. Polar bears have also been observed to raid subsurface seal dens in search of pups.
Are Polar Bears Dangerous in Alaska?
Polar bears can be found in extreme northern and western Alaska’s sea ice and tundra. These bears are naturally curious, intelligent, and actively avoid or disregard humans, but they are also dangerous. Polar and grizzly bears are dangerous animals that have been known to assault and kill humans. According to a study of polar bear assaults, there were 15 attacks between 2010 and 2014, a significant increase from the average of 7-12 attacks every ten years. Climate change is being investigated to see if it is reducing polar bear habitats and increasing human-bear confrontations.
Because polar bears have a narrow range, you must first determine whether you are in their territory. Polar bears prefer to be near the coast because they may feed on seals, so there is a higher risk along the coasts. If you must work or travel across the polar bear territory, you must remain vigilant. Periodically scan the horizon with binoculars, paying specific attention to coasts. If possible, travel during the day and in groups to avoid bears.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Louise Ekeblad/Shutterstock.com
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