Polar Bear Watch

Polar bears enjoying the Cincinnati winter

The season from November through February typically is an ideal time for polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  The weather is cold and snow sometimes falls.  Bundled up zoo visitors eagerly approach the polar bear exhibit expecting to see bears actively playing in the icey cold water where they appear to be enjoying themselves immensely.  However, in November and December visitors may not see as many polar bears as they have come to expect.  During the fall and early winter seasons, the female bears are given access to dens during the day in case they are pregnant and want to begin exhibiting nesting behavior.  Therefore, if you don’t see a bear in the under water viewing area, don’t be disappointed.  It could be that the bear is in her den preparing to give birth.  CREW scientists analyze the hormones in fecal samples of polar bears and try to determine which bears at our nation’s zoos are possibly pregnant.  Although the tests are still not definitive because hormone values in pseudopregnant (false pregnant) and pregnant bears appear similar,the data can be used to determine which bears might be carrying cubs.  Fortunately, one of our bears falls into this category.  Due to climate change and the loss of arctic sea ice, polar bears are now threatened with extinction, so we need all the polar bear cubs we can produce.  Keep your fingers crossed that our bear is truly pregnant this year and not just pseudopregnant!

Bears enjoying a Valentine's Day treat