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The polar bear was named Snowball. Like most bears in captivity, she was rescued from being destroyed by the Manitoba wildlife officials after her mother became, what humans term, a problem bear. She hailed from Churchill, Manitoba which is renowned as the Polar Bear capital of the world. Her mother traveled one too many times into the small town of Churchill with each foray becoming a little more brazen. Wildlife officials will trans-locate polar bears, usually three times, before putting the bear down. Each time they are trans-located, they are flown by helicopter, dangling in a net, a few hundred miles away from the closest settlement, but a polar bear?s sense of smell is a marvel of nature and will lead it back to where it knows there is food.<br><br>
With this bear, however, there was more to worry about. She had two cubs with her which, in essence, tripled the problem. The cubs were relocated with their mother each time, and each time, they appeared back in town at her side. By now, the damage had been done and the cubs were now habituated to humans?not good news for a bear. The mother?s final trip into town was her last. She was destroyed by wildlife officials and her cubs were placed in the ?polar bear hotel? until suitable accommodations could be found.<br><br>
She arrived in Calgary after the zoo had finished building a state-of ?the-art enclosure for her. It was roomy and sported a deep dive tank. Polar bears are just as much an aquatic mammal as a terrestrial one with it spending at least 50% of it?s time in open water. The polar bears closest cousin is thought to be the brown bear. In theory, a segment of brown bears were cut off from the population as ice sheets advanced from the north about 75.000 years ago. What transpired is an adaptation to the environment?.sink or swim. The polar bear chose to swim, and swim well it did. Over the course of the years, polar bears have developed a number of features that allow it reign in its environment.<br><br>
Polar bears possess webbed paws which make it ideal for swimming, a nictating membrane that covers their eyes while swimming similar to goggles, nostrils that close when diving, a heating system that is 97% efficient ( a polar bear has more trouble keeping cool than overheating), stippled skin on their paws for traction on ice (a design that Nike capitalized on).<br><br>
Over the course of 75.000 years (or about the same length of time **** Sapien sapien has resided on earth) this bear has made leaps and bounds to adapt to its surroundings. Some scientists believe we may even be witnessing the evolution of a terrestrial mammal returning to the sea. What an exciting concept!<br><br>
Above all else, the polar bear is the smartest of the Ursine species. If you meet a polar bear in the wild it isn?t by chance. The bear?s sense of smell can smell that cheese sandwich you have in your pack, 30 miles away. It can also smell seals under the ice and will wait patiently by the seals aglu (breathing hole) for hours. The seal is ever wary of polar bears and will scout an area out well in advance before surfacing to grab a quick breath of air. If there is even a hint of a polar bears shadow falling across the surface of the ice, the seal will travel else where to do its business. Thus, the polar bear needs to have the patience of Job. It will lie next to the aglu?s opening for hours without moving a muscle. Polar bears are very successful hunters, and seals are plentiful.<br><br>
There are three main populations of polar bears. The polar bears that hang out around the Hudson?s Bay are most commonly known. Then there are the Alaskan population where, as you?ve guessed, reside close to the shores of northern Alaska, and finally, there are the Svalbard bears that call their home north of the Russian northern shores around Svalbard Island. All the bears share the polar ice cap in their respective areas but none of the populations are known to mix with the other. Considering the ice cap is not stationary and travels in a counter clockwise fashion, the non-mixing of populations is quite a feat. What?s to keep the bear from plunking it?s hiney down on the ice and ride the frigid merry-go-round to the other side of the Artic remains a mystery. Clever bears.<br><br>
Anyway, Snowball seemed to enjoy her new home.<br><br>
As the years prodded along, Snowball grew into a beautiful bear. She spent her days lazing about in the dive dank, chewing on frozen fish sealed in blocks of frozen ice, chasing birds, and pretty much doing what bears in captivity do which is plenty of nothing.<br><br>
As she got older, her behaviour changed somewhat and she took to pacing her enclosure. Concern was generated among the general public that maybe she was bored and wasn?t challenged enough by what the zoo had to offer. The zoo, hearing the paying public?s outcry felt it needed to find a solution to the ?bizarre? behaviour demonstrated by Snowball. Consulting with other zoos, it was soon discovered that most polar bears in captivity have the habit of pacing. They followed the lead of other professional zoos by finding appropriate medication that would subdue her relentless back and forth habit. Prozac was the drug of choice. Unfortunately, Prozac has a perceived reputation of being quite harmful. The news is filled with stories of people on the medication harming themselves of even taking their own lives. The public, ever diligent, voiced their concerns about the drug that was being administered to Snowball. Although Prozac has had more success stories than failed ones, the media latched onto the more newsworthy, sensational of the two and had a field day. The zoo did not discontinue the dosages to Snowball regardless of what the public had to say and, in fact, Snowball was medicated up until the day she passed away.<br><br>
What most people failed to realize though is that Snowball was just exhibiting polar bear behaviour. Polar bears walk. They walk and walk and walk and walk. That is their job in their natural environment. The average home range of a polar bear is 20.000 kilometers. A brown bear?s range is roughly 500 kilometers in comparison. Quite a difference, no? So, Snowball was behaving like a polar bear. Go figure. But still, zoos try to design ways to limit a polar bears relentless walking and appease the public.<br><br>
The Orlando zoo boasted about its new multi-million dollar polar bear enclosure. It was revolutionary in the sense that it would distract the polar bear with environmental enrichment to a point where the bear would no longer need to pace. They opened the enclosure to much fan fare and introduced the bear to its new enclosure. They were right. The enclosure held the bears attention and its pacing seemed eliminated??until about a week later when the novelty of the new digs wore off and the bear began, you guess it, pacing.<br><br>
Around the zoo, I was known as the Ursaphile. The guy to go to if you needed a question answered regarding bears I spent many days at Snowball's enclosure educating the public about all things Ursus maritumus, and when no one was around, I would talk with her. We spent a lot of time together and I fell in love with her. I knew in the back of my mind she felt differently than what I thought of her. To her, I was a feat that if she could pull it off, she?d eat for weeks. That was no less demonstrated to me one time while I was in back of the enclosure with one of the keepers. Snowball was at the back of her off exhibit enclosure when we came in. I was helping the keeper with something and noticed her pacing while keeping an eye on us. I turned slightly and in a split second she had traveled (quite quietly I might add) the 25 feet that separated us and was now growling through the bars that were, as far as I was concerned at that moment, far too flimsy. I nearly jumped out of my skin! I was very impressed that the old girl still had it in her and I gained a new respect for her.<br><br>
Snowball died at a ripe age of 28 years. That?s quite a long time to live for a bear. It would never have seen close to that age in the wild. I remember the day. I wasn?t working but I received a phone call. After receiving all the details, I thanked them, said good-bye, I sat the phone down, and wept.
 

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Good stuff!<br><br>
I feel bad that there is not some better accommodation for the bears' need to walk.<br><br>
And I wish that I had some of the polar bear's adaptations about now.
 

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Amazing story and an even more amazing thing to have experienced! To actually get to know a bear!<br><br>
Thanks for sharing that torque, its very touching!<br><br><br>
Oh, and do you have any pictures of her?
 

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Sorry Seirra, I've looked around and I can't find any pictures of her.
 

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what a beautiful story, torque. thanks.<br>
Isn't it funny when they play the Coke commercial with the little polar bear and penguin that become friends and unite their species? I've read that polar bears are so smart they'll cover their black nose in a white out while stalking prey.
 

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Thanks dia, there has been some talk of polar bears covering their noses but there hasn't actually been any documented cases.<br><br>
I like this photo<br><img alt="" src="http://www.geocities.com/~texalmal/image/plrpup2s.jpg" style="border:0px solid;">
 

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Great story torque and well-written as usual.<br><br>
I have the feeling the Penguins and PBs aren't exactly warring tribes, unless someone is willing to swim a heck of a long way to get that feud started.<br><br>
Maybe the Orcas have spread the word though... <img alt="smile.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/smile.gif">
 

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Thanks Duck. <img alt="smile.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/smile.gif"><br><br><i>or should I call you "geek"</i> <img alt="biggrin.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/biggrin.gif">
 

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My buddies in the 30's thread on CR (like Roberto) seem to have dubbed me Duckie for the most part. Regardless, I don't look anything like Jon Cryer... <img alt="surprised.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/surprised.gif">ccasion5:
 

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Thank you for posting this, great story on a great bear.<br><br>
I like watching the polar bears at the Zoo near us. Pacing slowly around their habitat or just lolling around when it is hot.
 

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1. Great story Torque! I encourage you to think about submitting this for publication. The more personal details as well as the info about the bear would have appeal I am sure.<br><br>
2. The pacing bear thing intrigued me as they have a pair of black bears at a science center up north and one had adapted to a rythmic swaying/ one or two paces right by where the visitors entered the observation post. They blocked that area off and now it paces in and out of it's shelter all day. They are also rescued bears ( as are all the animals) and their habitat is natural and a large size. The other bear does not have any problem with the environment.- odd or not?
 
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