POLAR BEAR FACTS
Scientific Name: Ursus maritimus
Height: 1.3 m (Adult, At Shoulder)
Lifespan: 20 – 25 years (In the wild)
Gestation period: 180 – 250 days
Hibernation period: 152 – 213 days
Length: 2 m (Adult)
Mass: Male: 270 kg (Inland area population), Female: 130 – 200 kg (Adult)
More About Polar Bears:
Polar bears are the icons of the Arctic. They are the largest land carnivore on the planet with adult males weighing between 800-1,200 lbs and reaching almost 8 feet long. The largest polar bear ever recorded weighed in at over 2,200 pounds!
Polar bears feed primarily on seals which are dense in calories. They prey mainly on Ringed seals, but also the larger Bearded seal. Polar bears may also scavenge on other items such as whale carcasses. These animals hunt on or along ice edges where seals are found. When the pack ice retreats in the summer, polar bears can be found on the mainland until the ice returns.
Polar Bear Facts & Tidbits
- Polar bears have enormous paws which help them to swim (paddle) and walk on snow and ice (like snowshoes). Fur covers most of the paw helping to increase grip on snow and ice.
- Polar bears have a layer of blubber beneath their skin that is 2-6 inches thick.
- These bears, although not fast swimmers, can cover great distances in the water, perhaps 100km or more.
- Females give birth every 2-3 years, usually to twins, but sometimes to single cubs or triplets. They give birth in dens during the winter months and will remain in the den for 4-5 months, emerging with the cubs in the Spring.
- Females reach sexual maturity around the age of four to five years and males at about four. These bears normally mate between April and May on the sea ice. Females are known to mate with several males and litters can have different fathers. Mating can take as long as a week and the couple then separates. Once pregnant, the female will dramatically increase her size, sometimes as much as doubling her weight to be able to have the energy for pregnancy. The cubs are born between November and February and will stay with their mother until they reach about two years of age. Polar bears can live up to 25 years in the wild
Polar bears are circumpolar in the Northern hemisphere, meaning around and near the North Pole. They are found in Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia within the Arctic Circle.
IUCN Status: Vulnerable / Population Trend: Decreasing
In 2008 the polar bear was listed under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) in the US. Canada and Russia have also listed it as a ‘species of concern’. Polar bear populations are decreasing as a result of climate change and the rapid loss of sea ice which poses the greatest risk to their survival.
Scientists predict that if warming continues in the Arctic due to climate change, polar bear populations will decrease by two-thirds within the next couple of decades.
Photo Credit: Lanaufoto, Dreamstime