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Polar Bear
 Polar Bear Facts and Information

Polar Bear
Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Miller , Susanne

Common Name: Polar Bear
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
Species: Ursus maritimus

The polar bear is not only considered to be the largest carnivore on land, but also the largest in the bear family. Mature male polar bears average in weight from 500 to 1,100 pounds (225 to 500 kg), and have also been known to reach 1,400 pounds (635 kg). A typical male polar bear is 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in length, and can stand 8 to 11 feet (2.5 to 3.5 meters) tall when standing on their hind legs. The female polar bear is typically half the size of the male. A good portion of the polar bears weight is contributed to 3 to 4 inches of fat to protect and insulate the bear from environmental conditions. While most people think that the polar bears coat is white in color, the hair is actually hollow (for insulation) and clear. Another important characteristic about the polar bear is its paws, which measure up to 12 inches (36 cm) across. The paws are designed specifically for the environment to allow for walking on snow and ice, as well as propelling them through the frigid arctic waters in search of food. Recently, the polar bear is considered to be a threatened species. Some groups and organizations feel that this is attributed not only to global warming, but also to unregulated hunting.
Polar Bear - Front Paw Print
Front Paw Print
Polar Bear - Rear Paw Print
Rear Paw Print

Polar Bear Distribution/Habitat

Polar Bear - Distribution

The polar bear is found only in the northern hemisphere throughout the Arctic Ocean and coastal areas. They are located from northern Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Norway into northern Russia. In the summer months the polar bear will typically be on the coastal shores, while in the winter months the bear will navigate further north to prime hunting grounds.

Polar Bear Diet

Polar Bear - Mother and Cubs
Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Miller , Susanne

The polar bear is a true carnivore compared to its relatives the brown bear and black bear. Polar bears eat primarily Ringed Seals and Bearded Seals, as the Arctic has an abundance of these seals. Polar bears hunt for seals near the edge of holes in the ice where the seals surface to breathe. Polar Bears also have a keen sense of smell. They can smell animals from a mile (1.6 km) away. This allows the polar bear to smell seals and their pups in caverns under the snow, where the bear uses their forepaw to break and collapse the snow ceiling. Polar bears have also been known to attack a mature walrus, but only when food sources are scarce. The weight of a walrus can be twice as much as a polar bear and have been known to not only injure, but also kill polar bears with their tusks.

Polar Bear Reproduction

Polar Bear - Eating
Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Amstrup, Steve

The mating season for polar bears is usually in April and May, and the cubs are born between November and early February. Male polar bears can travel up to 60 miles in search of a breeding female. The impregnated female polar bear will then hunt to gain the necessary weight to sustain the coming months, where she will dig a den to give birth to the newborn cub(s). During this time in the den before birth, the female bear will be in a hibernation-like state to preserve her energy and added weight to support the pregnancy. Female polar bears usually dig the den out of snowdrifts and have been known to use the same den from year to year.

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