Big Bruins: Brown and White
One is the largest of its kind and the largest of all land dwelling meateaters. The other's diet is more than ninety-nine percent meat, and it is larger than all but one of its kind. Both are naturally peaceful, but if provoked, neither would lose a fight with any other land carnivore, including the great cats. The Alaskan brown bear and the polar bear share similarities and demonstrate differences.
One comparison between the bears is that the males (boars) are usually solitary animals. Except for a month during the mating season, mature boars live alone. Females (sows) raise cubs (one to four) by themselves and occasionally must protect their young against the males. The lone boar Alaskan brown bear usually “stakes out” a territory of twelve to fifteen square miles while the male polar bear may travel hundreds of miles on ice floes. Rarely, polar bears migrate in herd fashion. They are the only bears to exhibit this behavior.
Size is another point of comparison. An adult polar bear may reach eight feet in length and weigh more than 1,300 pounds. His Alaskan counterpart can be over nine feet and weigh more than 1,500 pounds. Sightings of Alaskan browns that weigh more than a ton are rare but have been documented. Their size does not inhibit their mobility as both can run at a speed of 25 mph.
One comparison will help to clarify a popular misconception. Neither bear hibernates. The polar bear is very active during the long, dark, winter in the Arctic. Brown bears, like all other bears, sleep for many hours during the winter but they do rise, move around, and eat any readily available food.
Apart from the obvious difference in color, the bears’ dietary preferences present the greatest contrast between them. The Alaskan brown bears are omnivores; they eat virtually anything. They delight in ground squirrels, mice, and other small mammals but are adept at killing and consuming any land animal in their...
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