Ocean Currents

Meet Smokey Bear’s Northern Pals

© Christopher Michel

Smokey Bear’s northern pals are “polar” opposites when it comes to their ecosystem preferences.

Yes, pun intended—Smokey Bear’s northern pals are polar bears! Black bears like Smokey and polar bears share a common ancestor that dates back to over five million years ago.

Polar bears have an intense appetite, especially for seals. Seals are their preferred type of food because they are high in calories. Polar bears need a high-calorie diet because they are continuously traveling in efforts to hunt for food. As you can imagine, that’s a whole lot of exercise! They are constantly burning those calories while searching for their next meal.

When traveling, polar bears can be quite speedy: they can run up to 25 miles per hour and swim up to six miles per hour.

Additionally, polar bears are able to detect seals through their super strong sense of smell. They are able to smell seals from a mile away. They also get a solid foundation in hunting skills from their parents. As polar bears grow up, they develop creative skills that help them hunt. Patience is their strongest character trait, as not all of their hunts are successful.

Even though polar bears appear white, they actually have black skin—similar to Smokey Bear. The white fur is actually transparent, which makes them appear lighter. The black skin underneath their fur is helpful for absorbing the sun’s warmth. This is a good thing, as very few wool sweaters would fit them and available in the Arctic!

Though both Smokey Bear and polar bears have their differences, one thing is for sure: they need your help to protect their environment. Just as uncontrolled forest fires will hurt Smokey Bear’s environment, drilling for oil will hurt polar bears’ environment. As the Arctic environment continues to change, oil and gas businesses are increasingly moving into new areas in the Arctic. Oil and gas businesses not only cause disturbances when drilling, but the risk of spills pose a huge threat to polar bears.

Like many animals, polar bears need your help to protect their habitat. Their health—and the health of the communities that rely on a productive Arctic ecosystem—depends on it.

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