Polar Bears International

© Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

Chapter Two Through the Season

01

Polar bears are creatures of habit and habitat, following the rhythm of their internal clocks. Each season, they take cues from their environment to prepare for what
 comes next.

Come spring, comes mating.

© Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

As the snow starts to melt and days become longer, male polar bears start actively seeking mating partners.

Anuri is six years old. For the first time, her body is ready to care for cubs
 and she has enough experience to teach them how to survive.

Between April and late June, Anuri and an adult male find one another and mate on the sea ice. Polar bears are quite solitary, so her companion stays with her for about a week before moving on to find food or another breeding female.

Interestingly, a female polar bear does not actually implant
 fertilized eggs until late fall, and only if she has enough fat to sustain herself and her cubs during the long denning season. This phenomenon is called delayed implantation.

02

Fall denning.

To prepare for birth and to provide a safe place to raise her newborn cubs, a pregnant polar bear builds a den in raised peat banks or snow drifts along coastal, river, and lake bluffs, or in banks of snow on the frozen sea.

To build it, she excavates a cave—just large enough for her to turn around inthen waits for the snow to close the entrance tunnel.

Entering in late October or early November, Anuri will stay there until spring without eating or drinking.

03

New life during the cold winter.

In December, Anuri gives birth to two cubs.

She spends her days nursing and managing the ice that forms in her snowy den. Her sole focus is to protect her young and provide them with enough milk so they can grow.

Cubs

Newborn cubs are 30 to 36 centimeters long and weigh little more than half a kilogram (1.10 pounds). They are born in the den and grow rapidly on their mother's rich milk.

04

Here comes the sun. Spring has sprung.

As the sun returns over the tundra and spring starts to take shape, Anuri's new cubs are strong enough to survive outside. She finally emerges with them from the den and leads them on a trek to the sea ice. After fasting all winter, Anuri is hungry and determined to hunt seals and set an example for her cubs.

05

Summer school.

Starting in the summer and onwards for two-and-a-half to three years, Anuri's cubs depend on her for survival. Her success at hunting is critical for her own needs and to teach her cubs how to find food for themselves.

As cubs grow up, they continue the cycle, making decisions based on what they’ve observed and following the rhythm of the seasons and their instincts.

© Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

What’s next for Anuri?

Because she’s so young, Anuri is still in her prime reproductive years.
 Over the course of her lifetime, she may have up to five litters.

Continue to the Next Part
Chapter 3