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Polar Bear Day

Polar bears (family name Ursus maritimus) are the largest land carnivore in the world today. Males typically reach an adult weight of between 880 lbs to over 1300 lbs; females are smaller, ranging between 440 to 770 lbs. Their habitat is the southern edge of the Arctic ice cap, mostly on coastal land or nearby annual ice where they dine on their preferred meal: seal. But they are known to also eat whale and walrus carcasses, other smaller land mammals, and some vegetation. The National Zoological Park (NZP) acquired its first polar bears in 1892, shortly after its establishment.

Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber Die Saugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen

Interestingly, there have been a few instances at the NZP of interbreeding between polar bears and Alaskan Kodiak bears, producing hybrid cubs. This began in 1931 as a ‘love story’ between Snowy, a male polar bear, and Ramona, a female Kodiak bear. When Snowy arrived he was placed in a cage with a female polar bear and Ramona. Apparently the sparks flew between Snowy and Ramona, and in 1935 the first set of hybrid cubs was born. Sadly, the cubs did not survive, but they made zoological history. The following year four cubs were born to Snowy and Ramona; three survived into adulthood. In 1949 NZP recorded another first in zoological history: a hybrid bear was born to hybrid bear parents! Hybrid bears, like mules, were not supposed to reproduce. Second generation hybrids were also born in 1956 and 1959. The cubs born in 1959, named Elmer and Juliet Jones, were the last viable cubs born to hybrid bears.—Polly Lasker

Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber, Die Saugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen

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