Zookeeper answers questions about polar bears

By Heather Tuttle

Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 18 2014 8:50 a.m. MST

Rizzo, Hogle Zoo's polar bear, plays in her pool.

HEATHER L. TUTTLE, DESERET NEWS

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.

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