SAN DIEGO - Animal care staff at SeaWorld San Diego think a polar bear might be pregnant, citing signs of maternal behavior and an unusual detection technique involving a 2-year-old Beagle.
Szenja, 18, was mated with a male polar bear at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium earlier this year, according to SeaWorld.
Since then, Szenja has gained significant weight, become more finicky about what she eats and is creating a nest in her den, using material staff have given her.
What's more, she passed the "Elvis test," according to SeaWorld.
Park officials say conventional pregnancy tests don't work well in polar bears, so a dog named Elvis is being used to determine whether the sensitive canine sense of smell can be used to distinguish between feces of pregnant and non-pregnant polar bears.
SeaWorld officials said that if the canine-sniffing theory proves out, it will help zoological institutions manage their collections, which is especially important at a time when the polar bear species is considered threatened.
Elvis has sniffed the feces of 17 polar bears this year in the trial, and Szenja was positive.
The gestation period for the species is 195 days to 265 days. They can give birth to one to three cubs, which measure 12 to 14 inches long when born, and weigh just over 1 pound.