For the last few weeks the Rangers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) have been puzzled by what has happened to their polar bears. The award winning Wildlife Park, home to many threatened species, have been looking after polar bears in a purpose built 10 acres reserve for over two years but recently things took a strange turn.
The polar bears have a fantastic home here at YWP, as well as having a huge space to roam they get the best care with a varied diet and lots of novel objects to play with” said Collections Manager Simon Marsh. Polar bears are carnivores and in the wild their main prey would be seals but they will scavenge and eat birds, fish and whale carcasses. “We can’t feed our bears seals so we feed them red meat and occasionally fish” added Mr Marsh.Simon Marsh, Animal Collections Manager
“The last couple of weeks we saw a slight change in the bears coat. This does happen naturally when they moult or have been rolling in the mud but this was different” continues Kim Wilkins Carnivore Team Leader. “There was a strange pink hue about the bears, it was very odd”.
“We know that birds feather can change depending on their diet and some mammals change their coat colour with the seasons like the arctic fox. Also diet is important to keep an animals coat healthy but I’ve never heard of a polar bears coat changing colour” said Mr Marsh.
“We were really stumped as to why our polar bears were turning pink? Then the penny dropped. A few weeks ago we had a large donation of salmon to YWP and had to use it up before it went off. The polar bears got the majority of it” said Ms Wilkins. “They loved the salmon and all four of a male polar bears ate several salmon each for a couple of days. The bears can eat up to 40kg a day so a few salmon at 2kg each was just a snack”.Kim Wilkins, Carnivore Team Leader
“It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen” said Mr Gorbuscha, a regular visitor to the park. “I love watching the bears playing in their lakes, they are magnificent animals but I was a bit shocked when they turned pink!”
“The bears have now returned to their original white colour and we strictly ration the salmon now” concluded Mr Marsh. “Polar bears are under threat in the wild from the effects of climate change, their Arctic habitat is melting due to raising global temperatures. We all need to reduce our carbon emissions to create a healthy environment for us and the polar bears”.
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