Nature Canada

We know that ducks quack and cows moo, but what then, do Polar Bears do?

Image of Guest Blogger

Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger

This blog was written by guest blogger, Tina-Louise Rossit. 

Decoding the grunts and growls of the great white bears

The Polar Bear. These great white bears of the north are iconic mammals known for their white coats, enormous wide paws and exceptional hunting skills for their favourite prey choice: seals. Many think of Polar Bears as silent giants, being the largest terrestrial carnivores, but in reality, these bears can be pretty vocal! Now then, what exactly does a Polar Bear sound like?

Interestingly, Polar Bears have a wide variety of sounds from growling to humming, chuffing to crying. They may not be loud but they do vocalize when they are distressed, hungry, angry and content. Scent and body language represent a Polar Bear’s main system of communication but vocalization is important for mother to cub relationships, as well as for resolving disputes between males fights for female mates.

Let’s begin with Polar Bear cubs. Cubs are dependant on their mother for food and protection from day one. They are born in the den their mother made and only emerge in the springtime when the coldest months have past. Just like any other youngling, they vocalize when they need something, whether it’s food or for the mother’s affection.

Among the bear family, Polar Bears are unique with their “I’m happy” sound. Cubs and adults will make what can be described as an engine humming sound when they are content and/or sleeping. Adults will have a deeper rumble than cubs and as the cubs get older, they communicate to their siblings and mother by grunts and growls.

Once they reached adulthood, Polar Bears are solitary animals. Unlike other bear species, Polar Bears are not very territorial. Males and females’ range frequently tends to overlap. Problems usually only occur during breeding season when males have to compete for females to mate with. Males will growl viciously as they fight in this situation.

Overall, Polar Bear communication is best through other senses than vocalization. Their noses are their number one communication tool as they are highly sensitive to smells. During breeding season, the male scents out a female by her footprints. When hunting, these bears can even smell their prey underwater.

Polar Bear communication is still on its way on to being fully understood. With zoos housing Polar Bears, zoo research is in progress to find out more about the great arctic bears. Public visitors also get to see how Polar Bears behave. Soon the sounds of these majestic bears will be known just like knowing that a duck quacks and a cow moos!

For more information on Polar Bears, click here.

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