Polar bears are the largest living predators on Earth. They are terrible predators and dominate their Arctic territory. But do these bulky animals show a warm side to their mates when mating, or are they as cold as their cold habitats?
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) usually live alone and gather only during the mating season from late March to early May.
Jon Aars, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said that in spring, male polar bears just wander around and pick females. These animals have a strong sense of smell that can be used to track the odor of their spouses, so it’s basically okay to locate females.
Males generally do not track females for miles, and they try to force females to remote islands, bays or cliffs to reduce their mating rivals. However, the results of actual observation show that these attempts tend to fail, and females are often seen in male groups competing for mating.
Polar bears are bisexual. On average, males are twice as large as females. They also have significantly longer hair on their forelegs than females. It is not clear whether the wool is decorative or has other uses. Scientists believe that the long hair of males can make them look bigger, make them more attractive to females, and deter competitors.
But in order to be able to mate with females, it’s just too big to be able to do so. They also have to engage in fierce fights, which will allow them to reap wounds or permanent scars. Usually the winner of the fight will expel all competitors.
Aars said that we caught polar bears in the spring with a lot of scars, not only new wounds, but also old ones. This shows that male-to-male struggle is not uncommon.
Once the female is in estrus, the male climbs up its back to mate with it. Studies have shown that the mating time of polar bears is about half an hour, but may vary depending on the topography of the field. In Polar Research magazine in 2015, Aars and his colleagues observed a pair of polar bears mating for up to 65 minutes.
Mating itself also involves the process of giving birth to a female. Males remain alert for the next 10 days and mate repeatedly with females to allow the pups to be born at the right time. No matter how long the male will persist, because it feels obligated to protect the female.
When a couple breaks up, they continue to look for other polar bears. During a breeding season, polar bears will have multiple partners, which will produce a number of disorderly paternal descendants.
Female polar bears will receive delayed embryo implantation, which means that their fertilized eggs will not be implanted until autumn, and they will gain a lot of weight when they become expectant mothers. In early January, about two months later, pups will arrive. Females will not mate again for two and a half to three years after weaning.
If the pups die prematurely, whether due to natural environmental factors or adult males, they will enter the estrus ahead of time. If they miss the breeding season in spring, they will mate even throughout the summer.