The following questions were submitted to Deseret News by kids of all ages. Joanne Randinitis, senior bear keeper at www.hoglezoo.org, sat down with Heather Tuttle last week to answer the kids’ questions.
Q. Can you have one as a pet if you train it? — Ben Krieger, age 7, and Ben Devlin, 10
A. No. The are incredible large and have sharp teeth and nails. They are also incredible powerful and live for 30 years.
Q. Do they stink? — Kensie Johnson, 5
A. Bears definitely have a smell the otters smell worse.
Q. Do polar bears burp? — Jackson Page, 7
A. I would think they would.
Q. How long are their claws and do you have to trim them? — Nick Devlin, 10
A. They are about two inches. Grizzly bears' claws are closer to 5 inches. We do not trim them.
Q. Do they like string cheese? — Maya Holman, 3
A. They don’t eat cheese in the wild, so they wouldn’t be given that at the zoo in captivity.
Q. What color is their poo?
A. It depends on what they eat. So if she (Rizzo) eats a lot of carrots, it is orange.
Q. What is the biggest bone in their body? — J.R. Meadows, 34
A. The femur.
Q. How much food do polar bears eat? — Hannah Cox, 11
A. Our polar bear eats 8 pounds of fish, 15 pounds of meat, 1 pound of fat and 5 pounds of produce every day.
Q. Does Rizzo still get treats from her keeper? What dos she like to play with? — Landon Call, age 7
A. Yes. Her favorite is beef fat. She really likes buckets, a horse trough. She likes large 55 gallon barrels and really large plastic balls.
Q. How much do polar bears sleep in one day? — Andre, 10
A. Probably about 50 percent of their day. The rest of the day Rizzo is exploring for food, picking up smells, doing bear stuff.
Q. How big are polar bear babies when they are born? — Anna Devlin, 5
A. They are about a pound. About the size of a hoagie bun. They are something like 1/360th the size of their parent. They are so tiny. Compare that to human babies, who are 1/15th the size of their parent.
Q. How fast do they grow? — Heather Tuttle
A. They will stay with their mom for the first two years. When they come out of their den, after a couple months, they are in the 40-50 pound range and by the time they leave their mom they weigh a couple of hundred pounds.
Q. When a polar bear goes under water and comes out again, what makes it so their fur dries so quickly? — Camille Krieger, 12
A. Their hair is hollow, so it doesn’t absorb a lot of water. When they come out they will shake off and then rub against something to kind of squeegee off.
Q. Why are they white? — Maxwell Page, 9
A. So they blend in with their environment.
Q. Is polar bear hair translucent? — Vivian, 11
A. Their hair is hollow, it isn’t actually white, it just has the appearance of white.
Q. Why do polar bears need their white coat if they have a black coat underneath? — Lauren Krieger, 12
A. It is black skin, which will absorb the sun’s rays. So they stay warm.
Q. How do polar bears keep warm when they go into the freezing cold water? — Alyssa Meadows, 7
A. They have a layer of fat that definitely keeps them warm.
Q. How do polar bears survive in the cold? — Corbin, 9
A. A really cool thing about polar bears is when they start putting on a lot of weight they put it on their backside first, and when it is windy they put their butts to the wind because that is the most insulated part of their body. The only part of their body that is not insulated is their nose.
We had thermographic people come in and take thermal pictures of Rizzo. The only place you can see is her nose and around her ears and eyes. It’s the only place where there is heat lose.
Q. Can polar bears survive in a warm summer? — Kieran Jackson, 5
A. Here at Hogle Zoo, Rizzo’s den is air-conditioned, there is a lot of shade and misters. The pool is chilled. It’s never more than 65 degrees in the summertime.
Q. Why is global warming threatening to them? Will polar bears be able to adjust to a warmer climate? — Ellie De Groote, 10
A. The problem isn’t that they can’t survive in a warmer temperature, it’s that they lose their food source completely. Polar bears, especially in southern areas, like around the Churchill, Canada, area, don’t eat anything during the summertime. Or they may happen upon a dead thing and will eat that. Or a bird egg, but they aren’t actively hunting or seeking out anything. The females have to maintain a certain body size so when they do get pregnant they have enough reserve. But the males will go all summer without eating. Then when the ice starts to form is when they will eat. They need that sea ice to go out and catch the seals.
People say if they are eating birds and berries or sea kelp, can’t they survive on that? But the males can weigh almost 2,000 pounds. There is no way they can get the calories they need from eating that. They need that seal fat. An adult male polar bear in the wild will eat over 20,000 calories in a day, and that is the equivalent of 300 McDonald's cheeseburgers. It's a lot of calories, and they need that and they aren’t going to get that from eating bird eggs.
Climate change is affecting the sea ice, the permanency ice, and then the algae that is the start of the food change grows on the bottom of the sea ice. If we are slowly getting rid of that sea ice we are getting rid of that algae and then the animals that eat that aren’t going to have anything to eat and then the animals that eat those animals will disappear. That is why we are seeing such a quick decline.
People are trying to counteract that argument saying, but I am seeing a lot more polar bears. You shouldn’t be seeing the polar bears. They should be out on the ice away from people.
As the temperature increases, that sea ice goes away. But there are ways to reduce your greenhouse emissions. Take public transportation if that works for you. If you try to eat local, your food isn’t traveling as far and there’s not as much carbon coming from transporting the food. But simple stuff like changing your light bulbs, or fixing the thermostat a couple degrees colder in the wintertime or warmer in the summertime. Pack your lunch in reusable containers. It’s a bunch of simple little things, but if everyone does the little things then it adds up and becomes a big thing.
Q. How did you get Rizzo from her original habitat to the zoo and how has she adjusted? — Keaton Harvey, 10
A. She was born in captivity. She came to us from Cincinnati and was transported in a large metal cage. She has adapted really well. She loves her pool here.
Q. How do polar bears compare to other bears in the U.S.? — Ricky Corndjo, 11
A. They have similar body structures. They have a different feeding strategy. Polar bears eat mostly animals. Grizzly and black bears forage for berries, fruits and are constantly eating when they are not hibernating. Polar bears eat one really big meal and then process that.