Polar bears inhabit the pack ice found in the Arctic Ocean. Their range includes western and northern Alaska, Greenland, central Siberia and the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Polar bears mainly feed on seals, sea birds, small mammals and fish. They also scavenge whale and walrus carcasses and eat some vegetation in summer. Their average lifespan ranges from 25 to 30 years in the wild and 38 years in captivity.
Polar Bear (XL Figure)
Polar Bear Cub
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Carnivora
Family - Ursidae
Genus - Ursus
Species - U. maritimus
Common Name - Polar Bear
Polar bears have a stocky build, with a longer neck and smaller head than other bear species. They have black skin and fur that lacks pigmentation. Because of this, their fur can appear white, yellow, gray or brown, depending on lighting conditions. Polar bears have large, wide forepaws that they use for swimming. The soles of their paws have fur for insulation and better traction on ice. Adults weigh between 900 and 1,600 pounds and measure between 7.25 and 8 feet long.
Polar bears mate between March and June. Females have a gestation period that lasts between 195 and 265 days, after which they give birth to an average of two cubs. The cubs are born in the mother’s winter den, where they remain in hibernation until spring. Cubs stay with their mother until they are two or three years old.
Polar bears are solitary except when females care for their young and when adults mate. They use their strong sense of smell, as well as their whiskers and lips, to explore their surroundings and find prey. Polar bears spend most of their time sleeping, resting or hunting. They have excellent swimming skills and can travel this way for long distances.
Polar bears are still found in many parts of their historic range, although their populations are declining overall.
Polar bears are listed as vulnerable due to their decreasing numbers. The main threats they face include changes in sea ice due to climate change, which is predicted to have a stronger impact over the next 100 years, exposure to pollutants, and limited access to prey, especially during summer. Conservation efforts are closely connected to efforts to effectively deal with the climate change that is affecting the Arctic region.