There are so many reasons to love polar bears and they are one of the most recognisable animals from the frozen north. But beware – these giants are perfectly adapted to hunting on the ice. Here are eight reasons to stay healthy by keeping a respectful distance.
1. Polar bears aren’t really white
It’s true. Polar bears actually have black skin (take a look at their noses) that’s covered in transparent, pigment-free hair. Each individual hair scatters and reflects visible light which makes them appear white, even though they’re not – sneaky.
2. They have a stronger bite than the great white shark
At 1,235 pounds per square inch, polar bears have a greater bite force than great white sharks, Bengal tigers and African lions. To put that number even more in perspective, the average strength of a human bite is a slightly embarrassing 162 pounds per square inch.
3. They’re the only mammal to actively hunt humans
Seals are their favourite food. But polar bears will hunt humans if they stray into their territory. And with incredible speed, enormous strength, a tremendous sense of smell and a deadly bite… do I really need to finish this sentence?
4. They can run as fast as horses
Reaching top speeds of 40km per hour, a polar bear could give a galloping horse a serious run for its money.
5. They’re invisible to night vision goggles
A heavy layer of blubber and that iconic fur pelt keep polar bears nice and warm in icy Arctic conditions. But they also keep them hidden from night vision goggles. Polar bears insulate heat so well that they’re almost completely invisible in infrared vision.
6. Polar bears have three eyelids
That’s right – three! Their third eyelid reduces the amount of UV radiation that enters their eyes, thereby protecting them from snow blindness. All the better to see you with.
7. They don’t need to drink water
Obvious fact alert: most of the fresh water in the Arctic is frozen. For you and I that might cause some problems. But not for polar bears – they’ve evolved so that they no longer need to drink water. They can get all the H2O they need from the chemical reaction that breaks down fat.
8. They don’t get wet
Polar bears have two layers of fur. The outer guard hairs form a layer that protects the inner fur from getting wet when they’re in the ocean. After a swim, they just need to give a quick shake and they’re ready to continue with their day.
These bears really are amazing. As the planet heats up due to climate change, Arctic ice is disappearing. This means its more difficult for bears to hunt, and they risk starving. So even though it’s wise to keep your distance, they need all the protection we can give them.