/ ©: WWF / Jack Stein GROVE

Polar bear habitat

Polar bears depend on sea ice

Polar bears are found throughout the circumpolar Arctic...
  • along or near coasts
  • on islands
  • and most importantly, on sea ice.

Why is sea ice important?

Polar bears spend much of their time on the annual arctic sea ice. It provides a platform for them to hunt, live, breed, and in some cases create maternal dens.

Sea ice is more than a simple platform: it is an entire ecosystem inhabited by plankton and micro-organisms, which support a rich food chain that nourishes seals, that in turn become prey for polar bears.

It is the very foundation and defining characteristic of the arctic marine ecosystem.
 / ©: Polar Bear Technical Committee / IUCN
Polar Bear population status as of 2014.
© Polar Bear Technical Committee / IUCN
Where polar bears are found, and their current status.
Learn more about the status of polar bears.

What's happening to sea ice?

As the climate warms, Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Almost every summer, the amount of remaining ice gets smaller. The oldest ice has essentially disappeared. This time-lapse video from NASA shows how the extent of sea ice has changed since the 1980s.
 / ©: naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWF
© naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWF


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In photos: Polar bear habitat

Where do polar bears live?

© Geoff York / WWF © Jon Aars / NPI © Viktor Nikiforov / WWF-Russia © Viktor Nikiforov / WWF-Russia © Gert Polet / WWF © Alexey Ebel / WWF

Follow polar bears

Follow polar bears as they wander the fjords and ice of Svalbard, Norway, hunting for seals and raising their cubs. Each bear is fitted with a satellite collar, and their locations are updated regularly.

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