Polar Bear Facts

Polar bears, also known as Ursus Maritimus (or “maritime bear” in Latin) are a species of bear native to the regions surrounding the Arctic Ocean, near the North Pole – that’s how they got their name! Polar Bears live in many of the countries who are close to the Arctic Ocean, including Canada, Russia, Norway and Greenland. Polar bears live in these areas because they are well adapted to the cold climate and spend much of the year on or near the open waters of the Arctic Ocean, where they hunt arctic seal under the ice.

Polar bears live for most of the year on the sea ice, where they hunt for their prey, which includes seals, walrus calves and fish – but a hungry polar bear will eat almost anything. In the summer when sea ice breaks up, polar bears will make their way onto land where their diet may include reindeer, birds and berries. A fact you may not know about polar bears dining habits – they wash their faces and paws after eating whenever they can, using water or snow! That’s how they keep their fur so white, even after a messy dinner of seal.

While polar bears are known as being less social than other species of bear, this is not always the case – polar bears do spend some time with others of their species and young bears especially are fond of playing together. Speaking of polar bear cubs, these bears usually have their cubs in the winter, when mother bears will make a special den to have her babies just a little ways from the water. The mother bear will give birth sometime between November and February. The whole bear family will stay in their den for the winter, not coming out until as late as April. Then the mother bear will allow the cubs out to play near the den where she can keep an eye on them.

Today, some populations of polar bears are growing, while others are threatened. One thing which is a danger to polar bears is global warming. Polar bears need the sea ice to hunt the arctic seals which are their primary source of food. Without ice for the bears to hunt on, they have to swim very long distances to catch seals. This means less food for polar bears – and that means fewer polar bears! Global warming has led to less sea ice, less of the year and this is a very bad thing for polar bears.

Global warming makes other problems for polar bears too – thawing of permafrost makes it harder for bears to build their winter dens and makes them less well insulated (even polar bears can get cold!). Right now efforts are underway to make polar bears a protected species – and it’s about time! We think it’s a better world with polar bears in it – and not just in a zoo or museum, but in the Arctic regions where these bears truly belong.