Week of May 7, 2023

Bearly Interesting


They may not look it, but bears are fast. With top speeds over 35 mph, bears can easily outrun even Usain Bolt and match horse running speeds.


The sleepy state many bears enter through the winter is technically torpor, a state similar to true hibernation but different in that the bear can still wake up quickly to respond to danger. In either case, it is a very deep sleep, and the bear lives off fat reserves and does not eat, drink, or pass waste while sleeping for months at a time.


The teddy bear was named for President Theodore Roosevelt following a 1902 Mississippi hunting trip when the president refused to shoot a black bear that other members of his hunting party had stunned and tied to a tree, believing such a kill would be utterly unsportsmanlike. The episode was featured in a cartoon showing the adult bear as a cub, and a Brooklyn couple sewed and started selling “Teddy’s bear” plush dolls in their penny shop after getting Roosevelt’s permission. After growing interest, they soon made a fortune selling the bears exclusively.


With males weighting an average of about 1,000 lbs., polar bears are the largest bear and largest land carnivore in the modern world. However, they would have been dwarfed by their extinct Ice Age ancestor the giant short-faced bear, which stood 12 feet tall, weighted over 1500 lbs, and (amazingly) ran 40 mph.


One female polar bear was observed to swim for 9.67 days straight in the Beaufort Sea, covering over 400 miles.


Panda bears are usually a big draw for zoos, but at a steep cost. The Chinese government retains ownership of the pandas and typically charges one million US dollars annual “panda rent” to the institutions exhibiting and researching them.


Although red pandas and koalas seem quite bear-like, they aren’t true bears. The unique red panda is the only member of its animal family, and koalas are actually marsupials, like kangaroos.