Polar Bears: No Easy Answers

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Ah, Chinook!

November 16 has come and gone and still no news with Chinook. The estimated gestation for polar bears is 195 to 265 days; since Kalluk and Chinook bred in mid-February, we certainly expected to know by now if Chinook is or isn’t pregnant.  All we know for certain is that she has not had any cubs . . .yet.

Her hormone analysis shows similar profiles to other polar bears that have given birth in late November or December. It is also a profile that has not produced cubs. Every year we get a bit better information, but it is still not the perfect test. Chinook’s ultrasound exams also showed promise of her uterus developing as we’d not seen in past years. We also had two exams scheduled where Chinook let us know she did not want to join in. However, this week she enthusiastically participated. We easily could see her uterus but no cubs were to be seen.

So for now we have no easy answer to the question “Is she or isn’t she?” We will continue to care for her as she needs until the time that she shows us she is ready to be out with Kalluk and Tatqiq, and then we’ll have our terrific trio together again or until our beautiful girl has those precious white fur bundles, and we can all know our finger crossing and wishes worked!

JoAnne Simerson is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Polar Bear Ultrasound.