You’ve probably heard of polar bears, but did you know that they’re classified as marine mammals? Did you know that their fur isn’t actually white?
Let’s explore these and other fascinating facts about polar bears! At the end, be sure to try our fun coloring activity!
What do polar bears look like?
Polar bears are Earth’s largest carnivorous (meat-eating) mammals on land. They are about seven to eight feet long, and male polar bears can weigh up to 1,700 pounds.
Polar bears have black noses, jet black skin, and translucent fur. Because their fur reflects light, it appears white. This white appearance helps polar bears stay camouflaged in the snow.
Below the skin, polar bears have a thick layer of fat to trap heat and keep them warm. They have strong legs and large, slightly webbed feet.
The webbing between their toes helps polar bears swim and walk on ice.
To keep them from slipping on the ice, the bottoms of polar bear’s feet have a sort of “non-slip” surface. Their feet also have fur on the bottom so they don’t get too cold.
Since polar bears spend so much time in the water, they are considered marine mammals, unlike other bears.
Where do polar bears live?
Polar bears live in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Greenland, and some islands that belong to Norway. They occur both north and south of the Arctic Circle.
However, the largest population of polar bears live from north of the Arctic Circle to the North Pole.
Polar bears spend most of their time on sea ice, swimming between floating ice islands when necessary. However, they will spend time on land if sea ice is not available.
What do polar bears eat?
Polar bears mostly eat ringed seals, but they will eat bearded seals too. They will also eat whale and walrus carcasses and bird eggs.
To hunt seals, polar bears wait until they swim to the surface of the sea ice to breathe. They then grab the seal and drag it out of the water to eat.
Polar bears are at the top of the Arctic food chain. That means although they eat many other animals, no other animals eat them.
How do polar bears behave?
Unlike most other animals, polar bears usually live alone.
However, female polar bears sometimes raise their cubs in a family group, and polar bear cubs are known to socialize and play with one another.
When pregnant, female polar bears will dig a den in a snow bank. There, they usually give birth to two cubs, but the number may range from one to four cubs.
A newborn polar bear weighs just 1.5 pounds. At first, polar bear cubs must depend completely on their mothers for survival.
They stay with their mothers until they are about two and a half years of age.
Polar bear mothers can produce a litter of cubs every three years. However, this is only possible if she has enough fat reserves built up.
Females aggressively protect their young, but male polar bears do not help with protecting or raising polar bear cubs.
What is the polar bear population?
There are about 26,000 polar bears remaining. Polar bears are classified as threatened. Due to climate change, polar bears are gradually losing their sea ice habitat.
When ice melts too early in the year, it cuts short the polar bear’s seal hunting season.
While the polar bear is forced to live on land, it eats very little food.
Because it’s difficult for female polar bears to build up their fat reserves, they have fewer cubs. The cubs they do have also have a lower survival rate than they once did.
The remaining sea ice is farther from shore, forcing polar bears to swim longer distances and sometimes drown.
The U.S. Geological Survey predicts that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.
Interesting Facts About Polar Bears
- Polar bears are excellent swimmers. They can swim up to six miles per hour and for very long distances. Polar bears can swim for hours from one sheet of ice to another.
- Some polar bears have been spotted swimming hundreds of miles from land. However, they probably covered a lot of this distance by floating on sheets of ice.
- Scientists can determine a polar bear’s DNA by taking just two scoops of snow from its footprint.
- Polar bears can smell their prey from over half a mile away. They use their sense of smell to find seal breathing holes and to find seals in the water beneath layers of snow.
- Unlike other bears, polar bears don’t hibernate. Female polar bears have a sort of hibernation period when they are pregnant and while their cubs are very young, however.
- One reason for this hibernation period is so that polar bear cubs are born in warm dens and won’t freeze to death outside.
- The World Wildlife Federation and other organizations are working to save the polar bear.
More Animal Facts.
Fun Activity Time!
Try coloring in the picture of a polar bear. You can use white, cream and maybe some brown – or other colors you might fancy using to bring the bear to life!
>>>Polar Bears Fun Activity<<<