A bear’s body temperature is similar to a human’s and ranges between ninety-eight and ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit (36.7- 37.2C). Bears do not have sweat glands, though, and the lack of sweat glands coupled with their insulating fur can make staying cool on a hot, sunny day a challenge. Bears employ a variety of techniques to solve this problem, including resting in the shade, stretching out on their bellies on the cool ground, panting like a dog, sitting or lying in a cold stream or the ocean, sprawling on snow patches, and shaking off water when they emerge from a stream. They are also able to dissipate heat through their paws which are well supplied with blood vessels, and they lose heat through areas with minimal fur such as the face, ears, nose, belly and the insides of the legs. To cool down, bears sometimes recline on the ground and spread their legs wide.
Bears are susceptible to a variety of diseases and parasites. Internal parasites include the trichinella worm (trichinosis), trematodes, nematodes, lungworms, hookworms, flukes, blood parasites, intestinal worms, and tapeworms. Tapeworms are especially prevalent in Kodiak bears because they eat large quantities of raw fish. It is not uncommon to see a bear in the summer months with a several-foot-long tapeworm trailing from its anus. Notice the tapeworm in this photo.
Bears can also suffer from many of the same ailments that affect other mammals, including arthritis. Traumatic injuries can be very devastating to a bear, especially if the injuries affect the bear’s ability to procure food or protect himself. Poor teeth can directly impact a bear’s ability to eat, and any factor leading to inadequate fat reserves before hibernation can result in starvation.
The Kodiak Archipelago is home to 3500 bears and 13,600 humans, so how do the bears and humans interact? Next week, I’ll tackle the topic of bears and humans.
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