Polar Bear Science with Dr. Thea Bechshoft


Ever wonder why the polar bear was “petting” the dog in the video posted online a few weeks back? Dr. Thea Bechshoft will tell you.

A few weeks ago, I found a video of a polar bear petting a dog. No, this is not a joke. I am not making this up. I didn’t dream about it. I saw a video, that went viral posted on this website where the polar bear was actually petting the dog. People were awestruck. Everybody said, “awwwww, look at that polar bear petting the dog, isn’t that cute!” I said the same thing. Until I figured out what it really was, and I said, “OH! Look at the polar bear, its petting the dog.” Polar beard are apex predators in the Arctic. They don’t really have any competition there, except for humans. And, of course, the environment. They are in trouble. There are 19 sub-populations around the world, and some are doing better than others. But according to Thea Bechshoft all of populations will be wiped out if we continue to contribute the amount of greenhouse gasses that we currently do. The polar bears are an indicator species. They indicate to us, how we’re doing from an environmental standpoint. Right now, we’re not doing very well at all. When I saw the video I said: I have to get a polar bear scientist on to see what this polar bear was actually up to. Was he playing with his food? Or was he actually petting a dog because he’s gentle? Or was he just bored and wanted to play with something? He is almost 9 feet tall, he probably weighs about 1,000 pounds. He can pretty much do whatever he wants without anyone harming him. But we assume he’s being gentle and he’s playing. I was able to find Thea Bechshoft on Twitter and found out that she was a polar bear scientist. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited to invite her on the podcast. And I was even more excited when she agreed to come on to talk about polar bears as well as the specific polar bear behavior of “petting the dog.” What I found out during my interview with Thea was nothing that I expected. I learned more about polar bears during this interview than I have known my entire life. I can’t wait for you to hear this interview. If you’re reading this blog post, and you don’t usually listen to podcasts, make this the one you listen to. Press play on the player above or you can go to our iTunes or iHeartRadio feed.

The interview is riveting. Thea is so knowledgable about polar bears, their natural biology, why we should be concerned about their health, the ecotoxicology of polar bears which I did not know anything about, and, of course, climate change. We talk about climate change pretty regularly on this podcast as well as on this podcast because it has such a drastic affect on polar bears. The interview speaks for itself, and I really think you should listen to the interview. But I wanted to tell you about some of the things I learned.

  1. There is a potential for polar bear cubs to have an asymmetric skull based on how stressed the mother was during gestation.
  2. Polar bear fur is actually transparent, not white. There is no melanin in it at all.
  3. The furthest a polar bear has been seen swimming is 700km (that is insane!)

I hope you enjoy this podcast, because it definitely goes down as one of my all time favorites. I can’t wait to have Thea back on the program. You’ll find her contact information linked below. Please tweet her and let her know how much you loved listening to her on the podcast!


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