Heave writer Adam Cowden has a lot of stuff that he’s written for Cracked that didn’t get in, but nevertheless should be seen by the masses. We’ll be picking up some of it. Today, he’d like to teach you about polar bears.
The WWF would have you believe that polar bears are cute, oversized stuffed animals that desperately need your help. In reality, the only thing the polar needs or wants from you is your complete and utter destruction, and, for that matter, the complete and utter destruction of everything in its path. If you plan on “adopting” a polar bear, here are a few reasons to make sure that someone else will be raising it.
1) Polar bears are the only animals that actively hunt humans.
Polar bears are thought to be the only animal to actively hunt humans. According to Ed Zebedee, the director of the Government of Nunavut’s protection services, “Polar bears are the only animal that will definitely stalk a human and eat them. Nobody goes out on the land here without a gun.”
You know when you’re watching an Animal Planet special on lions, and the Australian guy who’s standing too close to the pack loudly says, “They’re actually more afraid of us than we are of them!”? Not so with the polar bear. They have a reputation for having “no fear of humans,” probably due to their natural habitat usually being far removed from human civilization.
You know when you’re watching Shark Week, and they show you the glorious 3D-rendered simulation of the attack, and the guy says, “To a shark, from below, the surfer on his surfboard looked just like a really big fish!” Polar bears don’t make that mistake, but they’ll eat you anyway. They have a nearly omnivorous diet, and will stalk and prey on humans, especially if they are hungry. Oh, and they’ll have an easy time doing it. Other than one subspecies of grizzly bear, they are the largest land predator, and a single swipe of a claw can be enough to kill you.
Just how often does this angel of arctic death strike? Well, fairly rarely. During a 20-year period in Canada, six deaths and 14 injuries were reported. 15 of these incidents were “considered to be acts of predation by the bear, and one by a polar bear defending her cubs.” The rarity human/polar bear contacts means that the chance of being killed by one is small, but if you do encounter one…well, don’t worry too much, because it will probably have snuck up from behind and killed you already.
2) Forget about Jaws, polar bears are the most terrifying animals in the open water.
The polar bear’s body is naturally adapted to swim in cold, arctic water, and their scientific name, ursus martitmus, actually means “maritime bear.” When it comes to swimming form, polar bears do it “doggy style,” using extra-large forepaws to propel them forward. Their hind paws, meanwhile, are held flat and used as steering rudders. If you think that sounds like it would look funny and awkward, like it does when you throw your puppy in the pool, keep in mind that polar bears can pretty easily attain a swimming speed of 6.2 mph, which means they could easily outrun and devour your dog. Or you, for that matter; the fastest ever recorded human swimming speed (for a paltry distance of 50m) is about 5.3 mph.
Before increasing global temperatures caused polar ice to melt, polar bears rarely had to swim what for them would be considered a “long” distance for, but now that it has begun to melt, they appear to have, how you say, “manned up.” According to a recent study, it is not infrequent for polar bears to now swim distances of 96 miles at one time, even up to a max of 220 miles at one time. Sometimes, polar bear cubs accompany their mothers on these swims, and if the cubs can’t keep up in the open water, they die. When it comes to “survival of the fittest,” polar bears don’t fuck around. If you can’t swim the 96-mile length of the gene pool, get out.
It remains to be seen just how far these creatures will swim to adapt to their changing environment. What’s certain, however, is that B-list horror filmakers will go to all possible lengths to exploit this trend; watch out for Polar Bears 3D, coming soon.
3) Polar bear liver is toxic.
Suppose that you do come up against one of these Arctic carnage machines, and manage to come out on top. Obviously, the next thing you’re going to want to do is make like Kirby and devour your opponent in order to subsume its power, right? Wrong. Even in death, the polar bear is still a killer.
Polar bears are adapted to a diet that includes an enormous amount of blubber, which is rich in Vitamin A. For this reason, the polar bear liver is adapted to process and store large amounts of vitamin A, which is fatal to humans in large doses. The Inuit have long known about the dangers of consuming polar bear liver, although the details surrounding the fate of their unlucky first taste-tester are unknown. If it was anything like the death of Arctic explorer Xavier Mertz, however, we can safely assume that it was absolutely fucking terrifying.
Mertz, along with companions Belgrave Ninnis and Douglas Mawson, were part of the Far Eastern Party Arctic expedition. (This is not to be confused with the mediocre American hip-hop group Far East Movement.) Things first began to take a turn for the worse when Ninnis fell down a hidden crevasse (you can bet that the polar bear would have spotted it, though) and took all of the supplies with him. Mawson and Mertz were soon forced to eat some of the sled dogs, which happened to be huskies. Mertz couldn’t handle the hard, stringy flesh, so took a more generous helping of the liver than did Mawson. Unfortunately for him, the husky, like the polar bear, has also evolved to process a high amount of blubber in its natural Arctic habitat, and consequently has a liver jam-packed with vitamin A. The account of both men’s subsequent illness and Mertz’s death sounds like something out of a bad acid trip: “Their hair fell out in large tufts, nails grew loose, toes blackened, skin peeled off. One day Mertz said to Mawson, ‘Just a moment, and, reaching over, lifted from his ear a perfect skin cast. I was able to do the same for him.’ Mertz grew lethargic, weak, depressed, chilled, and one day delirious. He died, presumably of hypervitaminosis A…”
Just to give some perspective, the liver of an Antarctic Husky, which contains about 10,000 IU of Vitamin A per gram, is about three times less toxic than the liver of a polar bear. The average polar bear liver contains between 24,000 and 35,000 IU of Vitamin A per gram. 10,000 IU of Vitamin A is the safe upper limit for human consumption, and signs of toxicity occur when between 25,000 to 30,000 IU are consumed. So one paltry gram of chopped polar liver is well over the “legal limit,” and is safely toxic. It is estimated that it would take about 30 to 90 g of polar bear liver to kill a person. 30 grams is about one ounce, which is about the weight of a pencil. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Arctic Hunters make sure to either throw the polar bear liver into the sea or bury it; if anyone were to come along and mistake it for something more benign, like rat poison or arsenic, it would spell instant death.
For obvious reasons, the polar bear will be awarded a medal for most epic “From the Grave” kill of the animal kingdom.
4) Polar bears are cannibals.
Polar bear males sometimes kill and eat young of their own species. “How is this surprising?” you smugly ask. “I’m smart. I read books. I know that cannibalism is fairly widespread in the animal kingdom.” Yes – you’re right. Lions (as well as chimpanzees, our closest relative) have been known to kill and eat the young of their own species. In both lions and chimpanzees, however, this behavior is thought to have at least partly a social function, as it appears to be used to assert dominance. There are even instances of human cannibalism, and not just back in the stone age. Infamous African warlord cannibals like General Butt-Naked believe that eating human flesh imbues them with special power; thus, human cannibalism might also thought to be linked to dominance type behaviors (or simply a mental disorder).
In polar bears, however, which are mostly solitary creatures, the purpose appears to be mostly related to hunger. Just as melting polar ice appears to necessitate polar bears making extremely long marathon swims, the shrinking size of the natural polar bear habitat and the resulting food scarcity is now forcing some to resort to cannibalism, providing further evidence for the fact that when it comes to the battle for survival, polar bears are willing to go to any length.
5) Polar bears grow really fast.
Polar bears are born blind and weighing 20 ounces, and are about the size of the Guinea pig. This is the part where every reader, even the guy who just got back from maxing out at 350 on the bench-press, secretly says in the privacy of their mind: “Ooooohhhhhhhh that’s adooooorable!” You probably think it would be cute to carry one around in your little pink purse like Reese Witherspoon’s dog in Legally Blonde, right?
Well, by this point in the list, you probably know better. Just in case you haven’t banished the warm and fuzzy thoughts yet, here are some fun facts. In eight months’ time, a polar bear will weigh about 100 pounds. This is definitely too big to fit in your purse. A full grown male polar bear can weigh more than 1, 400 pounds, and this is more than the world’s strongest man can deadlift. A female polar bear first breeds at the age of 5 or 6. Can you remember what you were doing when you were 5, beside wetting the bed and sitting around weighing under 50 pounds? If you were anything like the typical human baby, you were probably somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds at birth, only tripled in weight by the first birthday, and certainly weren’t producing any other puny, 5-10 pound polar bear snacks by your sixth birthday.
What does this all mean? It means that adopting a baby polar bear would be less like adopting a puppy and more like adopting one of Ridley Scott’s Aliens. No, it won’t burst from your chest at the dinner table, but that’s about where the dissimilarities end.