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Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species [Paperback]

Ian Stirling , Ian Stirling
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 17 2011

No animal is more symbolic of the Arctic than the polar bear. In the short space of 150,000 years, it has evolved from a grizzly bear into the most specialized predator of the arctic sea ice. Through behavioral, morphological, and physiological changes in a remarkably short period of time, the polar bear has become totally adapted to living comfortably in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Yet, the very survival of this unique mammal is now threatened by global climate warming.

Dr. Ian Stirling, the best known polar bear scientist in the world, compresses the major new discoveries of the last 40 years of research on this iconic Arctic mammal into a major new, easily readable, and scientifically comprehensive book about the ecology and natural history of polar bears. In an accessible non-technical style, he explains how polar bears evolved, how researchers study them, aspects of their behavior, how they prey and live on various marine mammals for their very survival, how the seals and bears have evolved in response to each other, and how, specifically, they have come to threatened by climate warming. In a separate chapter, he explains why the polar bears in Hudson Bay have become so important to our understanding of the species, how Churchill became "The Polar Bear Capital of the World".

Despite the deep concerns about climate warming, there is hope. Ecotourism in several areas, such as Svalbard, Hudson Bay, and the Canadian High Arctic is helping to develop a world-wide constituency of people who care about polar bears and the Arctic. The influence of this constituency is vitally important because there is still time for the world to reduce the rate of climate warming, but only if we make significant reductions in greenhouse gases soon. Maps, tables and graphs throughout the book illustrate the distribution of polar bears, where they originated, the status of populations, critical differences in ice conditions and how they impact the survival different populations of bears, and many other technical aspects made simple. The details of their ecology, behavior, hunting, and habitat us, described in detail in the text are illustrated with the most diverse and extensive collection of spectacular photographs of polar bears ever assembled in a single book. Some of the finest photos from several of the world's most experienced polar bear photographers, including Norbert Rosing, Mats Forsberg, Stefan Lundgren, Sue Flood, Doug Allen, Daniel Cox, Per Michelsen, David Shaw, Philip Dalton, and Jenny Ross, combine with the text make this book an incomparable treasure of understanding of this amazing mammal.

Frequently Bought Together

Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species + Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior + The Natural History of Canadian Mammals
Price For All Three: CDN$ 95.23

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Product Description


"With this book - the best ever to be written about polar bears - we are blessed with the opportunity to benefit from Ian Stirling's extensive knowledge and life-long experience with this magnificent animal.

He shows us that the far North is not a barren and hostile environment, but unique and beautiful. The new knowledge presented in this book is crucial for conservation and management of Arctic nature and its polar bears.

Read Ian Stirling's book, admire the pictures and enjoy."

-Dr. Thor S. Larsen. Founding member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and former Head of Biology Department and Director of Research at the Norwegian Polar Institute

"For over thirty years now, whenever there is debate over polar bears, I have turned to Ian Stirling not just for definitive facts and figures, but for genuine wisdom and perspective. To work with Ian in the field is to experience a man entirely at home in the Arctic environment, not unlike the bears he knows so well".

-Monte Hummel, President Emeritus, WWF-Canada.

"Ian Stirling's groundbreaking studies of polar bears laid much of the foundation for both current research on the species and our present day understanding of them. No one can now look at these highly intelligent, threatened creatures without worrying about a world that could cause their possible extinction - and wondering how we have allowed it to come to this point. We must take action. As this book clearly illustrates, their loss would be our loss as well."

-- Robert Buchanan, President/CEO, Polar Bears International

About the Author

As a Research Scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta, Dr. Ian Stirling has studied the behavior, population ecology, and predator-prey relationships of polar bears for 40 years, longer than anyone else in the world.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Stirling knows his subject Jan. 17 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Aside from some poor editing and spelling errors this book is packed with great information and a resource I turn to regularly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Polar Bears March 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The comments that I made in an earlier review of a companion book with a similar title apply to this volume. In particular, I appreciated the photos
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Reference Book Aug. 24 2011
By alost - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ian Stirling's "Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species" is considered by many to be the seminal reference book on polar bears. Although the product description and the copyright dates rather deceptively do not reflect this, this book published in 2010 is not an entirely new text, but rather is an updated version of Stirling's 1998 book Polar Bears. Some chapters have been expanded and some new chapters have been added in this release. The book features a host of new photographs as well.

Stirling, a Canadian research scientist, is regarded as one of the world's foremost polar bear authorities. In this text, he draws on his forty years of research as well as research by others to produce an in-depth examination of polar bears. Subjects covered include, among others, mating, denning, hunting, social interaction, physiology and habitat. Each topic is richly illustrated with photographs which show not only the beauty of these great animals and the environment in which they live, but the complexity of their lives and behaviors. The photographs alone could comprise a book worthy of praise, but Stirling couples these photographs with scientific-based, but comprehensible and engaging text. If I had to recommend only a single book on polar bears, this text would be it. I only wish the book had been released in hardback.

Other worthwhile books on polar bears include:

Nikita Ovsyanikov's Polar Bears: Living With the White Bear for first hand accounts of polar bears by a researcher living among them on Wrangel Island, Russia (the DVD Polar Bear Alcatraz centers around Ovsyanikov on Wrangel Island);

Thorsten Milse's Little Polar Bears Notecards for beautiful photography of polar bear mothers with cubs coming out of the den in Spring;

Richard David's Lords of the Arctic: A Journey Among the Polar Bears, an older (1982), but good overview of polar bears;

Norbert Rosing's The World of the Polar Bear and

Helen Thayer's Polar Dream: The First Solo Expedition by a Woman and Her Dog to the Magnetic North Pole for her first hand accounts of polar bear encounters during the author's journey by ski to the magnetic North Pole from Resolute, Alaska (her experiences with polar bears on her journey are more arguably edifying than much of the scientific literature summarizing human-polar bear encounters).

This is just a starter list - there are a multitude of good books on polar bears, but Stirling's book should be at the top of any list.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best I have seen so far Dec 28 2012
By Robert K. Furrer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not the customary coffee table book with lots of neat photos of one of my favorite mammals. Rather, it also shows the blood, hunger and death by starvation that are all part of this species' life history. It has the broadest approach to this species I have ever come across, including such chapter titles as "the Origin of Polar Bears" (from Grizzlies, and still being able to cross breed), "Polar Bears and Humans", "What makes a Polar Bear Tick", "How do you study Polar Bears", "Some Highlights of Conservation, Past and Present", "The Future..." to just name a few.
A book essentially dealing with the arctic habitat in general, and polar bears in particular. Thus highly recommended for a much wider readership than just polar bear enthusiasts.
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Educational June 13 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got this book to read in preparation for a trip to Svalbard. I wasn't disappointed. It is a thorough background of polar bears, their habits, their history and an educated look at their future. It is well worth reading whether merely curious about the bears and their environment or interested in finding out what native peoples and scientists have learned over the years. You won't want to scan or skip any of it: it is that interesting and well written.
5.0 out of 5 stars Polar Bears Feb. 27 2014
By Faye - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good price and glad to be able to purchase this book as i found a copy in the library and wanted to own it myself. Thanks so much for listing this at a reasonable price.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Dec 17 2013
By maggie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was great preparation for our trip to Churchill to see the polar bears. Book is crammed with interesting information. Highly recommend.
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