We currently have four polar bears at Highland Wildlife Park, we have two adult males called Walker and Arktos and a female called Victoria and a young male called Hamish
Hamish was born in December 2017, the first polar bear birth in the UK for 25 years. Now at two years old he is taller than mum Victoria, and tipped the scales at an incredible 340 kilograms at his last weighing.
The two males are in an enclosure near the beginning of the Main drive-through Reserve or can be seen from the viewpoint on the walk round.
The female polar bear, Victoria and Hamish can be seen on the opposite side of the site. The walkway to their viewpoint can be accessed near the Amur tigers and Arctic foxes.
Polar bears are under threat due to the loss of their habitat. They need sea ice as a hunting platform to catch seals, but global warming is causing the ice to melt earlier each year. This means that the polar bear has less time to hunt and put on weight for their summer fast or for a female to remain in the snow den caring for her young cubs.
Please find below an excerpt on our polar bears from our Main Reserve audio guide:
Walker arrived from Rhenen Zoo in the Netherlands in October 2010; he was born there on 7 December 2008. In April 2012 we received another male called Arktos from Hanover Zoo. He was born on 30 November 2007. The two boys have become inseparable and have formed a very close bond.
On 25 March 2015 we welcomed the UK's only female polar bear all the way from Aalborg Zoo in Denmark. Her name is Victoria and she was born on 12 December 1996 at Rostock Zoo in Germany.
Victoria has her very own large custom-built enclosure, featuring a pond and soft areas of ground, as well as plenty of space for her to explore. It is completely separate to the male polar bears which allows us to mimic the behaviour of polar bears in the wild who only come together to mate.
In total, Highland Wildlife Park devotes more space to polar bears (over four hectares, or 10 acres, in total) than any other zoological institution in the world, and the successful work of the Park in enclosure design and development is being mirrored elsewhere.
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are the largest living land carnivore, with adult males reaching up to 2.6 metres in length. They are found very north of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Their scientific name means "sea bear" which is appropriate as they are excellent swimmers and their fur is virtually water-repellent.
Their environment is extremely cold but they are able to withstand it. The polar bear's entire body is covered in fur, with the exception of their foot pads and the tip of its nose, which are black, revealing the dark colour of the skin underneath the distinctive thick white coat. Polar bears have large strong limbs and huge forepaws which are used as paddles for swimming, their toes are not webbed, but they have non-retractable claws which dig into the snow like ice-picks. The soles of their feet also have small indents which act like suction cups to help them walk on ice without slipping.
Their main food source is seals but when they are not available, polar bears will prey on young walrus, beluga whales and seabirds. Polar bears are able to detect prey almost a kilometre away and up to a metre under the compacted snow, using their heightened sense of smell.
When food is available they are able to eat large amounts rapidly. They are also metabolically unique as they can switch from a normal state to a slowed-down, hibernation-like condition at any time of year when there is less food available. During this fasting time, they metabolise their fat and protein stores
Polar bears are solitary animals throughout most of the year, except during the breeding season and when females have cubs.
Polar bears mate between March and May with females normally giving birth to one or two cubs in December. As females nurse and care for their cubs for two and a half years they are only able to mate once the cubs are independent, every three years. After successful mating, implantation of the fertilised egg is delayed until mid-September to mid-October, and the female gives birth to the young in a snow den approximately two to three months later.