Polar Bear Mating in Svalbard

Roie Galitz

Polar Bear Mating


Polar Bears are solitary animals, they try to avoid each other year round, except for one short period of the year when the females are in heat. Then the female send out pheromones which announce to nearby male bears that she is available and interested. The males, in return, can sense these signals as they taste the air and then touch their upper palate where the “Jacobson’s Organ” can detect those elusive molecules.

Different males can spot and follow the same female and then they will fight if they are the same size, or the smaller one will probably run away. This male, is injured after a fight with another male. He has a broken canine and several bleeding wounds.

When the male and female finally meet, the male starts his courtship.


He walks around the female and clicking his teeth, they do so for a couple of hours until the female is ready. When that time comes she signals the male by turning her back towards him, he understands the hint and they start mating.







The intercourse itself can last between 2 minutes to almost an hour, after that they will rest for a while and walk around until they are both ready to mate again. This ritual can go on for a week until the female stops ovulating and at that point they both will go their separate way and will probably never see each other again.

If the fertilization was a success, the female will enter a period of sustained pregnancy. That means that the fertilized eggs won’t develop into embryos, but instead they will wait for a couple of months and only if the female has enough body fat then the eggs will implant and the pregnancy starts. She will give birth in December, in the dark maternity den she digs in the snow, and hopefully in spring the cubs will emerge from the den and see the sunlight for the first time.


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