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Polar Bear Facts

Photo: Two polar bears fighting in the wilderness

Photo: Two polar bears fighting in the wilderness (View larger version)

Photo by iStockPhoto

  • Polar bears are mainly found within the Arctic Circle in the range countries of Denmark (Greenland), Norway (Svalbard), Russia, United States and Canada.

  • There may be only 25,000 polar bears left in the Arctic - about 60% of those are in Canada.

  • The polar bear's scientific name, Ursus maritimus, means maritime bear.

  • Polar bears are the world’s largest land predator - more than twice the size of a Siberian tiger.

  • Polar bears live in one of the planet’s coldest environments, where the winter climate in the Arctic can plunge to -50°F.

  • Polar bears are insulated by two layers of fur and a four-inch thick fat layer.

  • The feet are furred and covered with small bumps to prevent them from slipping on the ice.

  • In most parts of the Arctic, female polar bears only breed every three years.

  • A female bear may put on up to 400 pounds in preparation for denning.

  • Cubs, often twins, are born in January, and do not leave the ice den until March or early April.

  • Polar bears are stealth hunters of ringed and bearded seals, but they have also been recorded to eat reindeer, birds, eggs and shellfish.

  • Polar bears have an acute sense of smell, and can detect a seal over one mile away or through three feet of ice.

  • The polar bear hunts by catching seals at their breathing holes in the ice, by stalking seals resting on the ice, or by crashing into seal birthing lairs.

  • When the sea ice disappears in summer, the polar bear may have to live off fat reserves for a few months.

  • The main threat to polar bear populations is malnutrition or starvation due to habitat loss, which is caused by global warming and the resulting reduction of the sea ice cover.