Polar bears back home, and hopefully pregnant - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Polar bears back home, and hopefully pregnant

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - SeaWorld San Diego's two female polar bears are back Wednesday from a five-month stay in Pittsburgh, and now the question is whether they are pregnant.

Snowflake and Szenja were returned to their Wild Arctic exhibit after they spent time with Koda, a male polar bear at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The trip was part of a cooperative breeding arrangement among zoos, marine parks and aquariums to manage their animal populations, keep them sustainable and maintain genetic diversity. SeaWorld hopes the project will give researchers more knowledge about breeding polar bears.

"Those things are invaluable to learning about polar bear breeding," SeaWorld Curator of Animals Eric Otjen said

According to SeaWorld, polar bears are a threatened species in the wild because of a reduction in their sea ice habitat.

Animal care specialists and veterinarians will monitor the hormone levels of the 18-year-old bears looking for signs of pregnancy. It will not be known until later this year whether the breeding mission was a success, according to SeaWorld.

Park officials said polar bear pregnancies last between 195 to 265 days, including 135 to 205 days of delayed implantation. Polar bears give birth to one to three cubs at a time that measure 12 to 14 inches and weigh about 1 pound.

Szenja mated with Koda during a breeding visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo last year, but it did not result in a pregnancy. If there is a pregnancy this time, it is anticipated that a cub or cubs would be born by the end of this year.

"It's like being in the waiting room at a maternity ward for three months," Otjen said.

The 6,500-square-foot Wild Arctic exhibit was renovated when the bears were away. Among the additions were caves where treats will be hidden for them to find, according to SeaWorld.

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