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Polar bears are truly majestic animals: the largest land-dwelling carnivore on earth, they can measure up to 3 metres in length, and weigh up to 700 kilograms. They are also iconic in other ways – a symbol of the climate change debate, with their survival now threatened by the loss of Arctic ice. Their images decorate fountains and the cornices of buildings across Europe. They sell cold drinks. They feature in children's books, on merry-go-rounds, and under the arms of weary toddlers heading for bed. Their pelts were once highly prized by hunters and live captures became attractions in zoos and circuses. Stuffed bears still haunt museums and stately homes.
This is a natural and cultural history of the polar bear, describing the evolution, species, habitat and behaviour of the animal, as well as its portrayal in art, literature, film and advertising. With many fine images throughout, this will appeal to the wide audience who love these outsize, beautiful, seemingly cuddly yet deadly carnivores.
Margery Fee is Emerita Professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her most recent book is Literary Land Claims: "The Indian Land Question" from Pontiac's War to Attawapiskat (2015).