The word Arctic comes from arktos, the Greek name for bear. Polar bears make their home in this vast, mysterious northern land of snow and ice.

Polar bears live only in Arctic areas in the northern hemisphere — not in Antarctica, which is in the southern hemisphere. People often see illustrations of penguins and polar bears together, but this could never really happen.

Nose-to-nose touching is how polar bears greet each other. An approaching guest bear will slowly, circle around a bear at a kill, and then meekly touch the other bear's nose to ask for a share of the food.

Adult and juvenile bears engage in play — which is actually mock fighting — by standing on their hind legs and bumping and rolling together while growling. They rarely do damage to each other.

Attacking polar bears charge forward with heads down and ears laid back. They are frightened by loud sounds and threatening dogs.

Helen Thayer Encounters a Polar Bear Up Close
On my solo ski trek to the magnetic North Pole, Charlie my polar-bear dog and I were crossing Polar Bear Pass when our way was blocked by a twenty-foot high mountain of ice. As we turned to go around it Charlie stopped, his back hair standing on end, growling a loud warning. There had to a bear on the other side. I tore my skis off, released my sled harness, and grabbed the rifle and flare gun. With a pounding heart I waited as Charlie, straining at the end of his chain, growled and snarled even louder.

Suddenly a full grown male bear stepped out from behind the ice, paused a moment then raced straight past me to flip my sled over with one mighty swipe of his massive front paw as if it were a tiny toothpick. Charlie’s growls were deafening. Then the bear only twenty feet away, reared on its hind legs, dwarfing me. As he dropped to all fours to charge me I was instantly jolted into action. My right thumb on Charlie’s collar pressed down to release him. He raced to the bear, grabbed his right rear heel and hung on with all the strength in his powerful black body. The bear turned in tight circles trying to reach back to Charlie who twisted away, just barely out of reach of those vicious teeth. Round and around they went until the bear tore loose from Charlie’s grip and raced off into the distant ice with Charlie in hot pursuit.

Thirty minutes later a panting Charlie was running across the ice toward me. We met in a flurry of hugs and kisses. Charlie had saved my life, and I was thankful to be alive.

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