Popular Myths About the Polar Bear

Wildlife enthusiasts embarking on bear tours in the Arctic may be interested in learning some of the popular, but false, myths surrounding the Polar Bear.

The Polar Bear has long been an animal of intrigue and mystery – and, therefore, extensive studies. Sightings of this majestic creature are a memorable experience for wildlife enthusiasts on bear tours, and its extreme Arctic habitat is not for the faint-hearted. This frozen world is a relatively unknown entity to most except scientific professionals, so the jewel in its wildlife crown, the Polar Bear, has accumulated many false myths. Before you embark on one of the incredible Arctic bear tours, learn more about what is and isn't true about these amazing animals.

Nose Covering During Hunting

Perhaps one of the best-known misconceptions is that they cover their nose whilst hunting, in order to be completely camouflaged by the surrounding snow. This can be a hotly debated topic on bear tours, but, in truth, the myth has been debunked.

Dr Ian Stirling's findings were based on his use of telescopes to observe the bears over the course of several years, including watching hundreds of hunts. Dr Stirling has categorically stated that neither he nor his assistants ever witnessed any covering of the nose while hunting, and that from a sheer mechanical stance, the resulting three-legged hunting technique would take away from any effectiveness such camouflage might offer.

Mutualistic Relationship with the Arctic Fox

Some people believe that Polar Bears purposely share food with Arctic Foxes in exchange for the fox’s warning system. In fact the relationship between the two animals can actually be described as commensal, verging on symbiotic, rather than mutualistic. There have been various recordings of Arctic Foxes following Polar Bears on their journey for food and the two species have been spotted within a close proximity of one another many times, but in fact it is only the fox that has anything to gain from the interaction.

Arctic Foxes often pick at the scraps of a Polar Bear’s meal, scrounging for anything left over. Whilst on scientific bear tours, researchers have even seen Arctic Foxes snapping at the heels of the bears in an attempt to make them leave sooner so that they can get in before the carcass is completely stripped. During spring when food is scarce, Arctic Foxes are actually considered as competitors, as both hunt for the same prey - ringed seal pups.

Antarctic Polar Bears?

Illustrations of Polar Bears and penguins co-habiting, along with the freezing weather conditions and similarity in landscape, has led to the widely believed myth that Polar Bears also exist in Antarctica. That's not true. Antarctica is far into the Earth’s southern hemisphere whereas the Arctic is in the northern hemisphere and, interestingly, the word ‘Arctic’ actually originates from the Greek word for ‘bear’ , and Antarctic from the Greek meaning ‘opposite of the Arctic’ or ‘opposite of the bear’.

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