Polar Bears

Gus and Ida, polar bears

Ida and Gus just saying'hi.'

Polar Bear (Ursus Maritimus) There are no longer any Polar Bears at the Central Park Zoo.

Zoo collection includes: Gus born in late 1985 at a facility in Buffalo, New York, was at the Central Park Zoo since it opened in August of 1988. He was euthanized (2013) at age 27 due to an inoperable thyroid tumor. Ida, the female bear, was euthanized (2011) at age 25 due to liver cancer. They are both greatly missed.

Found in the wild: Along the coasts and inland streams and lakes of Alaska and Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia. The Greek word Arktos, meaning “bear”, is the origin of the Arctic name. Antarctica means “no bears”, so do not believe those commercials that feature a polar bear and a penguin together. It just isn’t true, they live on opposite ends of the earth.

See Them at the Central Park Zoo: Gus and Ida the polar bears have both passed away and are no longer living in the zoo. Meet Betty and Veronica, two female grizzly bear rescues.

Description: The males weigh 660 to 1,760 pounds and females—330 to 700 pounds. Our male, Gus, weighs about 1000 pounds and Ida, the female, weighs in at 650. A polar bear’s body temperature is 98.6 degrees F, just like us. They have a dense, thick undercoat of fur and are protected by an outer coat of long guard hairs that stick together when wet, forming a waterproof barrier to keep them dry. Even though polar bears look white, their hair is really made of clear, hollow tubes filled with air. Polar bears have black skin. A layer of 2 to 4 inches of blubber helps insulate polar bears from the freezing air and cold water, and acts as a nutritional reserve when food can’t be found. This blubber also helps the bears float in the water.

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Zoo Bear Habitat: The Polar bear exhibit is a rocky expanse containing a waterfall, some ice, and 90,000 gallons of freshwater. The water is 10 feet deep and the temperature isn’t regulated, but adjusts with the seasons between 45-75 degrees F. Each bear has a den with air conditioning to help get through the hottest days.

What do they eat:  They like to eat meat and seals are their favorite food. They will eat most anything including walrus, caribou, grass, berries and seaweed. They are very patient hunters and will wait hours for a seal to pop up through a hole in the ice.  At the Central Park Zoo, Gus and Ida are fed their main meal at the end of the day after the visitors have left. Their meals include mackerel, chicken, beef, horsemeat, and what the keepers refer to as “bear chow”. Every day the keepers encourage Gus and Ida to hunt for their food by hiding fish in frozen blocks, inside toys or in the rock crevices of their habitat. This stimulation keeps Gus and Ida active and healthy.

Gus plays in the water

Gus swims with his blue ball toy


Life span: 25 to 30 years in the wild and up to 45 years in zoos

Threats: Global warming is their main threat. Currently there are approximately 25,000 Polar bears in the Arctic, but this number is dwindling. Global warming is affecting the poles twice as fast as it is here in New York. This means that ice is melting earlier and Polar bears are not getting enough food. This is especially important for female Polar bears. Pregnant females may gain up to 440 extra lbs. to prepare themselves for the den, where they will spend many consecutive months without eating. The female will live off her fat stores. If she does not have enough fat to live on when her cubs are born (avg. litter of two), her milk will not produce enough to feed the cubs and herself- she must abandon them to save her own life.

Fun Facts: A newborn weighs only 1 to 2 pounds and are blind and helpless.  The polar bear's nose is so powerful it can smell a seal on the ice 20 miles away. Of all the bear species, the Polar bear is the only one to be considered a marine mammal.





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Top of Page Header Photo: © Rick Anderson 2017
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