Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea are showing signs of vulnerability, such as diminished ... / ©: Eric V. Regehr / USGS

Polar bears

Majestic creature of the far north, the polar bear is the world's largest terrestrial carnivore.
Its Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means 'sea bear', an apt name for this amazing species which spends much of its life in, around, or on the water - predominantly on the sea ice.

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 / ©: naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon
© naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon
  • scientific name

    Ursus maritimus

  • weight

    352 - 680 kg

  • length

    2 - 3 m

  • population

    20-25,000 polar bears worldwide

  • status

    vulnerable

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Why is the polar bear so important?

  • Polar bears help us gain an understanding of what is happening throughout the Arctic, as a polar bear at risk may signal something is wrong elsewhere in the arctic marine ecosystem.
  • Large carnivores - those that are at the apex  or top of the food chain - are particularly sensitive indicators of the health of an ecosystem... in this case, the Arctic.
All recent indicators show that sea ice in the Arctic is melting at an alarming rate, a problem that needs to be addressed immediately if polar bears, and other species unique to the region, are to survive.

Polar bears and sea ice

Polar bears are excellent swimmers, but their preferred habitat is on top of the ice that covers the arctic seas much of the year. That is where they mate, hunt and rear their young.

By 2040, the summer sea ice could be reduced to a small fringe on the northern coasts of Canada and Greenland.  This is the Last Ice Area.

Learn more about the Last Ice Area

What WWF is doing for polar bears

WWF is working around the Arctic to secure a future for polar bears.
Polar bears, the charismatic icon of the Arctic environment, have long been a focus in WWF’s on-the-ground research and conservation projects in the Arctic, going back to 1972 – and climate change is a primary focus of our global conservation efforts.

Polar bear videos from WWF

Facts

    • 40kph The polar bear's top speed 
    • 42 razor sharp teeth. With jagged back teeth and canines larger than grizzly teeth, they pack quite the bite 
    • 12 inch wide paws-- a natural snowshoe that helps the bear trek across treacherous ice and deep snow
    • 3 eyelids --  the third helps protect the bear's eyes from the elements
    • 4 inches of fat under the bear's skin keeps it warm
    • Black skin
    • Transparent fur
    • Blue tongue

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