The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest species of all bears. It is also the largest carnivore on land. The polar bear is hyper-carnivorous and large; It is approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear.
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Polar bears live in the Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. These bears are marine mammals because they depend on sea ice and the ocean and spend most of their time in the sea. Polar bears are nomadic bears and do not mark territories. They travel vast distances in search of food and for mating.
Polar bears have a dense undercoat and an outer coat that helps them remain warm in the cold temperatures of the arctic. Their fur and skin are water repellant due to an oil-like substance. The fur can be white or yellow (due to sun oxidation).
Polar bears have abundant blubber of fat that’s up to 5 inches thick that acts as another layer of insulation. The fat, as well as the outer coat, allows the bear to remain buoyant when swimming.
It has large paws and partially webbed toes. Thick fur covers their paws, which acts as another form of insulation and provides traction when the bear moves around. They have small ears and are known to have excellent hearing as well as eyesight. They also have an exceptional sense of smell and can smell prey that is 20 miles away.
Adult male polar bears can range from 7 to 11 feet when standing upright, and weigh between 660 to 1,320 pounds. Females range from 6 to 8 feet and weigh between 400 to 700 pounds.
Polar bears love to eat ringed seals. However, they also hunt bearded seals, harbor seals, harp seals, and a variety of other sea animals like walruses and beluga whales.
They usually just feed on fat and leave the carcasses behind for scavengers. Blubber is better for maintaining their layer of fat for both insulation and storing energy.
Polar bears must kill a seal (or equivalent) every 5 or 6 days to sustain their body weight. A polar bear can sit for hours next to a hole in the ice, waiting for a seal to surface. However, when pack ice melts in the summer, polar bears hunt on land and feed on birds, rodents, eggs, berries, etc.
Polar bears mate once every two to three years between March and July. The female polar bear will dig a den and spend nine months in the den until the cubs are born. There are usually two cubs, but sometimes a female can have 1-4 cubs. Cubs are born hairless and without teeth. They are the size of rats at birth. They stay with their mother for about 2 years/
There are an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 polar bears in the world (5,000 more than in 1970). In the wild, polar bears live up to 25-30 years. The polar bear was listed as threatened by the United States Department of the Interior on May 14, 2008, under the Endangered Species Act.
Fun Facts About Polar Bears
- Polar bears are excellent swimmers and can swim up to 60 miles without rest.
- Polar bears can swim at depths of 15 to 20 feet.
- They can stay submerged for over 2 minutes.
- The most massive polar bear on record was over 12′ and weighed 2,210 pounds.
- Some animals often rely on the remains of polar bear kills as a food source, making the polar bear a vital part of the food chain.
- They can eat up to 150 pounds of food in a single sitting.
- Polar Bears | Ice Stories: Dispatches From Polar Scientists – http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/big-ideas/polar-bears/index.html
- Report Projects When Polar Bear Populations Will Begin to Collapse –https://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2020/07/report-projects-when-polar-bear-populations-will-begin-to-collapse.html
- The Polar Bear – Facts – Information – https://www.bowdoin.edu/arctic-museum/pdf/polar-bear-brochure.pdf
- ARKive — images and movies of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) – https://web.archive.org/web/20060317030045/http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Ursus_maritimus/
- BBC Nature: Polar bear news, and video clips from BBC programmes past and present. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Polar_bear
- Photos, facts, videos from Polar Bears International that funds population, preservation, and DNA studies of the polar bear – http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/
- Map: Here’s where the polar bears are vanishing – https://www.vox.com/2014/12/18/7415843/polar-bears-vanishing
- Photos of Polar bear on Sealife Collection – https://sealifecollection.org/taxon/137085