Polar Bear

Polar Bear (<i>Ursus maritimus</i>), mother with cubs, Churchill area, Manitoba, Canada. rel=
Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), mother with cubs, Churchill area, Manitoba, Canada.
© WWF-Canon / Michel TERRETTAZ

The ultimate polar predator

The top predator in the arctic marine ecosystem, the biggest threat facing polar bears is global warming.
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) live along shores and on sea ice in the icy cold Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. They are large, meat eating bears, which hunt seals, walruses and other marine animals in the water or on sea ice. Polar Bears are powerful but graceful swimmers, capable of speeds up to 10 kph (6mph).

The most well known of all bears, polar bears are immediately recognisable by the white appearance of their thick fur. They are well-adapted to severe cold of the Arctic where winter temperatures often plunge as low as -45.5°C (-50°F) and can stay that way for days or even weeks. The polar bears’ compact ears , small tail and partially furred paw pads help prevent heat loss. They have 2 layers of fur for added protection from the cold.

Polar bears the largest land carnivores, with adult males growing up to 2.6 m in length. They are twice as big as the tiger and can weigh up to 800 kg - about the weight of a small car! When being chased or charging prey, polar bears can run as fast as 40 kph (25 mph) for short distances. Polar Bears have a sense of smell 100 times better than humans.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Polar bears live only in the Arctic regions so you would have to visit parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway or Russia to see one in the wild.

Polar Bears are listed as vulnerable in World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The primary threat facing polar bears today is global warming. They rely almost entirely on the marine sea ice environment for their survival. Global warming results in prolonged ice-free periods, which leaves the bears onshore and unable to hunt for longer and longer periods. Other threats include pollution, industrial disturbances and poaching.

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