Polar Bear – Frequently Asked Questions

(updated 1/6/2017)
We’ve had a lot of inquiries about our polar bears and we thought we’d try to address a few of them here.

Check back frequently as we will add the answers to the most frequently asked questions that we receive. Please post other questions to our Facebook page. Thank you for your interest.



How exactly do you pronounce Qannik’s name?
As you know, Qannik was named after the ConocoPhilips oil field where she was found in Alaska. Qannik is pronounced “KUN’nik” according to Professor Lawrence Kaplan, a linguist at the University of Alaska and director of the University’s Alaska Native Language Center. Qannik means “snowflake” in the Iñupiaq language.

How much does Qannik weigh and what does she eat?
Qannik was 572 pounds when weighed in October 2016.  Her diet consists of a special carnivore ground meat mixed with lard, fish, 4 types of dog kibble, and a specialty polar bear biscuit made by Mazuri. When she was found abandoned in Alaska she was malnourished and weighed 15 lbs. She should have weighed twice that.

How big will Qannik get to be?
Typical adult female polar bears will weigh between 350 and 650 pounds, and can reach 7 feet in length. A large pregnant female can weigh close to 1000 pounds prior to giving birth.

Do the keepers get into the exhibit with Qannik?
Her size and strength make it too dangerous for the keepers to enter the exhibit with her.  Instead they interact with her through panels of steel mesh (known as protected contact). These interactions, including training sessions, assist in developing a lifelong relationship between Qannik and the Glacier Run keepers.

What does Qannik do all day?
She divides her time between the off-exhibit bedrooms and two areas viewable to guests, Bear Alley and the Glacier exhibit.  The daily activity patterns are different every day, which allows for stimulating environment.  Enrichment items  (see below) and activities are used in all three areas.  Some of these activities appear in the form of “puzzles” causing Qannik to find the “solutions” to get the reward.  The Glacier exhibit includes an 80,000 gallon pool which she uses extensively, diving, swimming and engaging with guests through the windows. She has been known to cache items below the surface of the pool, successfully hiding them from the grizzly bears, and keeping them available for her to interact with at a later date.

What does Qannik play with? What are some of her favorite toys?
She has a plethora of options to choose from: a burlap-covered boomer ball that acts as a seal, a log to practice her balancing skills, Frisbees, dig pits, bins of ice, several hard plastic toys. She also loves a good session with her bin of ice. There are also blue, orange and green balls she chases in the 80,000 gallon pool of Glacier Run. It doesn’t really matter what the toy, Qannik just loves to play and explore.

When can we see Qannik?
Qannik is on a randomized rotational schedule in the two exhibits and the off-exhibit bedrooms in Glacier Run, along with the 3 grizzly bears.  For the well-being of our bears, it is very important that no two days are alike, so there is no set schedule for when she might be in any of these areas.  The Zoo is well-known for its ability to shift animals into different areas (known as animal rotation) as can be seen in the award-winning Islands exhibit and Gorilla Forest along with Glacier Run.

General Bear Questions

Click here for the Zoo’s Polar Bear Fact Sheet

How does the Zoo help the polar bears on really hot days?
Polar bears are very adaptable to a wide range of air temperature.  They can experience temperatures up to 80 degrees in their arctic habitat.  Unlike other bears that can hibernate during winter, polar bears are most active during the coldest part of the year. Instead, they have evolved a way to deal with warm weather days.  Called “walking hibernation”, even though the bears are awake and moving around their bodies undergo some physiological changes which include slowing down their metabolism.  Here at the Zoo the off-exhibit bedroom areas are air conditioned, the water in the Glacier Pool is chilled, and there is an ice machine which randomly dumps ice into the bed of the truck in the Bear Alley exhibit.

When are polar bear cubs no longer considered cubs?
Infant polar bears are referred to as cubs for the first 2½ years of their life.  The next 2½ – 3½ years they are called sub adults and then at 5 years of age a female is considered to be mature.  Males mature by 6 years of age.