I’ve just returned from my annual trip to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, to work with Polar Bears International. This was my 10th year of doing so, and, as many of you know, I have seen dramatic changes in the environment and animals that live there in just this decade. This year has provided the shortest ice season in recorded time: the polar bears lost a full nine weeks of hunting time. The water and air temperatures for November and December continue to be above normal, delaying the formation of ice again this year. The polar bears have been hunting during low tide and have been fortunate to occasionally find harbor seals resting among the rocks. The bears must be vigilant that they return to the shore before the tide rushes in.
Archive for the 'Polar Bears' Category
It’s hard to believe summer is a distant memory, and fall is quickly passing. Can we already be into the middle of November? Six months ago we were all so sure our Chinook would be caring for cubs. We’ve not yet given up, but the wait and uncertainty is almost un”bear”able. We will just have to wait a bit longer to know if we will be welcoming any cubs to our family.
Here is what we do know: as of the last analysis of hormones, October 12, Chinook had not yet had any embryos implant, but her levels were still close to what we would expect of a potentially pregnant polar bear. So if she is pregnant, we would now not expect to see any cubs until late November or early December. We must still keep in mind that these tests are not a perfected science, and we still have many things to learn.
What if San Diego Zoo polar bear Chinook gives birth to a beautiful healthy cub? What if the cub is sick or hurt just after it is born? What if Chinook doesn’t know what to do with her tiny squawking bundle? What if she can’t produce enough milk? What if the confusion of first-time motherhood is too much for Chinook to handle? How could we help? What should we do? What would we do?
Why would we even entertain such horrible thoughts? What’s with all the doom and gloom?
See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris Comes Home.
As Boris grew older, physical changes in him became more and more obvious. He was getting taller and more muscular. His thick velvet coat was getting even more dense, and antler buds were beginning to grow on top of his fuzzy black head. Every once in awhile Boris would delicately balance on three legs in order to scratch an antler bud with his hoof, as if satisfying a little itch. He also began growing the thick patch of skin and hair that reindeer display under their throats. Boris was beginning to look more like a reindeer and less like a Holstein calf!
Wild brown and black bears are facing a bleak time of limited food availability in the coldest months of the year. For this reason, late in fall they engage in hyperphagia, compulsively eating anything they can get their paws on. This builds layers of fat that will be essential to keeping them warm and healthy through the upcoming winter. (more…)
Megan is reporting from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Read her previous post, Returning to the Polar Bears.
There are beautiful, calm, sunny days up here where you start to believe that you might begin to master the art of living in the polar bear’s Arctic home. But then, out of nowhere, the weather moves in. Of course the weather up here has any number of combinations of cold, rain, snow, and wind. And what really keeps you on your toes is that it can turn on a dime, leaving you feeling hopelessly ill-equipped to stand outside, even for a few minutes.
See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris.
See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris.
Back home at the San Diego Zoo’s reindeer exhibit in Polar Bear Plunge, keepers set up a “howdy pen” where Boris could continue to gain coordination and strength. We use howdy pens to create a safe and secure place for our young animals to go to if needed. We also developed a daily routine for Boris. In the morning, Boris left his howdy pen and followed us into the exhibit. The reindeer exhibit at the Zoo is lushly planted, steep, and large—great housing for the adult reindeer to navigate but tough for little Boris. We noticed in the late afternoons, when things were quiet, the curious adult reindeer (mother included) made their way down the hill and into Boris’ pen to investigate, sniffing him and helping themselves to his food and water. These were the first signs that the herd was accepting Boris.
Flying to Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, always fills me with excitement and anticipation. And as the flight into town began its descent, I felt like I was going home. I love it up here. I love the smell of the cold and the enormous sky. I first came to Churchill in 1993 as a graduate student, and I am happy to return to the Polar Bear Capital of North America as a panelist for Polar Bears International’s Tundra Connections program.
“What is that?” keeper Pamela Weber wondered as she surveyed the reindeer exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. In the corner of the exhibit was a furry black bundle, completely unexpected. Did a wild raccoon or opossum somehow make its way into the enclosure? Upon closer inspection, Pamela realized it was, of all things, a baby reindeer!
Reindeer are found in arctic and subarctic regions of Eurasia and North America and are well adapted to life on the tundra. Calves are usually born between May and June and can stand and walk minutes afterward. They grow quickly on their mother’s rich milk so that they can keep up with the herd, which can be as large as 10,000 animals.
Rachel is the San Diego Zoo’s 2010 Teen Arctic Ambassador. She is sharing what she learns at Polar Bears International’s Teen Leadership Camp. Read the previous post, Teen Arctic Ambassadors: Day 5.
As Teen Leadership Camp 2010 starts to come to a close, I find myself reflecting on all of the great things that I will be taking with me back to San Diego. I have been so inspired by the wild polar bears, the presentations, and, of course, the other teen ambassadors. We formed a very tight-knit “family” during this past week, and it is going to be very hard for all of us to part ways.
From observing the polar bears in the wild and by brainstorming “green” project ideas with the other teens, I feel very motivated to come back to San Diego and do all that I can to make a difference. With the support of the other teen ambassadors, the facilitators, and others, I am ready to take action to preserve the polar bear for many generations to come.
I have learned so much from this experience; this past week truly has been eye-opening and life changing.