Wapusk News - Volume 5, Number 1, 2012
Wapusk National Park’s most famous animal is the polar bear. Did you know “Wapusk” means “white bear” in the Cree language?
The polar bear is the largest land carnivore (meat eater) in North America. It is often thought of as a marine mammal, just like whales, seals, and dolphins because it spends most of its life on the ice-covered Arctic Ocean and swimming in its waters. It prefers to be out on the sea ice as much as possible, since this is where its favourite prey, the ringed seal, lives. When the sea ice melts in the summer, the polar bear spends a few months on land before the sea freezes up again.
Pregnant female bears stay in Wapusk National Park to dig their dens in the peat. The cubs (1, 2 or 3) are born in the winter. As they grow, the mother bear takes them on walks around the den, where they play and learn about the world. When they are big enough, the mother bear takes them out on the sea ice to teach them how to hunt for seals and survive on their own.
Drawing of polar bear and cubs © Tereza Tomek, University of Manitoba Wildlife and Ethnoecology Field School 2008