Although polar bears are mostly solitary animals, male polar bears often hang out together and initiate play-fighting sessions while waiting for freeze-up. Scientists believe these mock battles prepare the bears for real fighting matches during mating season, when they compete for females.
Polar bears use a combination of body language and vocalizations to communicate:
• Head wagging from side to side often occurs when polar bears want to play. Adult bears initiate play—which is actually ritualized fighting or mock battling—by standing on their hind legs, chin lowered to their chests, and front paws hanging by their sides
• Nose-to-nose greetings are the way that a bear asks another bear for something, such as food. The guest bear will approach slowly, circle around a carcass, and then meekly touch the other bear’s nose. Bears who use proper manners are often allowed to share a kill.
• Chuffing sounds are a response to stress, often heard when a mother bear is worried for her cubs’ safety. Mother bears scold cubs with a low growl or soft cuff. When a male approaches a female with cubs, she rushes toward him with her head lowered.