Polar bears have a furry white coat that requires constant attention to keep it clean and healthy. To do this, polar bears employ a variety of strategies that may vary depending on whether they live on land or ice.
They can’t take their coat to the dry cleaners and there’s no soap for the polar bears to take a bath, so how do these amazing wild animals keep their coats so lovely and clean?
The following article will go through these different methods of grooming and their benefits to the polar bear.
The “How” section will explore what some of the more common practices are for grooming including shaking off dirt, scratching themselves against rocks and trees, rolling in snow, rubbing against objects such as large logs or boulders, and rubbing against other bears.
How Do Polar Bears Stay Clean?
Shaking off dirt and water: One of the most common methods to clean oneself of dust and mud is to shake. Polar bears are no different in this regard. They may do this while walking such as on a muddy shoreline or while wading through shallow water after eating in order to remove loose particles of mud.
This is beneficial because it cleans the body so that dead skin cells can be shed more easily and new skin cells can grow, making it possible for polar bears to stay healthy without excessive grooming.
It also helps ensure that the bear doesn’t ingest too many particles that can get stuck in their throat or digestive systems. In some cases, polar bears will shake themselves so ferociously that some of their fur will fly off!
Grooming with rocks and trees: In many areas where there is little snow on land, rocks are the most accessible items to scratch against. Some bears will rub themselves against rocks while lying on their backs in order to scratch the underside of their belly and other areas.
There are also reports of polar bears rubbing themselves against trees for similar purposes. The same principles apply to these actions as with shaking off dirt. Rocks and trees scrape away dead skin cells and hair so that fresh skin cells can grow to keep polar bears healthy without excessive grooming.
Rolling in snow: When it snows, polar bears will roll around in the snow to create a white crust that will help them stay warm without excessive heat loss. This kind of behavior is not restricted to winter alone; some reports tell of polar bears rolling themselves around after swimming or even after being submerged underwater.
This can be helpful in preventing exposure to high temperatures since polar bears cannot regulate their internal body temperatures.
Why Polar Bears Clean Themselves
Regulating body temperature: The shedding of dead skin cells keeps polar bears healthy by regulating their body temperature and making sure they do not get too hot or too cold. In some cases, this may involve rolling in snow for the same reason that polar bears roll in snow.
But the main reason is to regulate their body temperature. By shaking off dirt, rolling in snow, or rubbing against objects such as rocks or trees, polar bears increase their temperature so that they are able to regulate it without rapid changes in temperature or by shedding excessively much of the time.
Parasite control: In some cases, polar bears are able to isolate parasites from their fur by shaking or rolling in snow. This is a common sight for anyone who has visited polar bear territory in the wild, and can be observed most frequently in spring and fall when the temperature is milder.
Polar bears will often shake their fur to rid themselves of dirt at all times of the year as well, whether they’re shedding more than usual or not. This would allow polar bears to get rid of all but their thickest layer of fur while still being protected against the Arctic cold.
So, while they can’t take a shower or put their lovely fur coat in the washing machine, polar bears still have their own ways of cleaning and looking after their coats.