The unbearable truth about the polar vortex spinning over the Midwest is that it has brought record-breaking low temperatures so frigid even a polar bear cannot bear to be outside.
Officials at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo said that its resident polar bear, Anana, was kept inside yesterday, when temperatures plummeted to a low of minus 9 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 40.
During her day inside, Anana lounged in a “climate that's kept at 40 to 50 degrees,” reports the Associated Press. Today, however, when temperatures in the Windy City soared to a balmy 7 degrees, she was allowed to venture into her outdoor enclosure (though zoo officials report she only did so twice).
In the wild, polar bears typically put on a layer of blubber beginning in the late fall. This layer, which can be up to five inches thick, insulates them from the frigid temperatures of the Arctic, which often plunge to Chicago-on-Monday levels.
But because Midwest temperatures are usually nowhere near that frosty, zoo officials don’t feed Anana the seal diet that would allow her to put on the blubber layer. “It would make her uncomfortable going into summer,” Sharon Dewar, a zoo spokesperson, told DNAInfo.com.
While there are upwards of 25,000 polar bears in the wild, their long-term survival is severely threatened by the loss of Arctic sea ice. Because of climate change, the North Pole’s perennial thaw now begins in mid-June, a full month earlier than in 1980. This means that polar bears spend far more time on land—and not on sea ice, which they use as launching pads from which to “hunt, seek mates, and breed.”
Whatever one may think about whether polar bears like Anana ought to be kept in captivity, they’re not dealing with all of the potentially deadly pitfalls that their wild brethren face on a daily basis.