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Mother with two small cubs

   We saw two mothers with cubs during our week in Churchill. Here the cubs are learning about ice on a small tundra pond (fresh water, so frozen solid). These cubs are 11 months old and will be going out on the bay ice for the first time this year. Females continue to nurse their cubs till they're almost two, so she is anxious to get out on the ice to hunt the seals she needs for calories for herself and for weaning the cubs.

      Pregnant females den, often in the same area from year to year, and "sleep" for several months while the cubs are born and grow large enough to be taken out of the den. However, even these adult females maintain essentially normal body temperature and respiratory rates. They neither eat, drink, urinate, nor defecate during these several months, during which the cubs are born and gain weight by nursing from about 1 pound to 22 pounds. The specific physiologic and metabolic adaptations that permit this unique behavior of the female are not known.