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Where Do
Polar Bears
Live?

The Arctic

Polar Bears are ONLY found in the Arctic.

The Artic is the northernmost part of Earth and is home of the North Pole. This oceanic region is guarded by a layer of perpetual sea ice. It is surrounded by parts of the United States (Alaska), Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Water enters the Arctic Circle from both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. The region is around 14.5 million square km (5.5 million square miles) in size.

Polar bears live on the thick sea ice, developed by the regions extremely cold temperatures, as well as the surrounding land. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot find polar bears in Antarctica. They only reside in the Arctic. However, you would find penguins in the southern polar region!

Size & Weight

Cub

Polar bear cubs are born at around 2 pounds and are about 30cm in length, males being slightly larger than females. Before the babies leave their den, they can gain over 30 pounds. Mamas leave their cubs once they reach around two and a half years of age. At this point they will weigh 100 times their birth weight. Only around 50% will survive.

Adult

An adult male polar bear may reach more than 10 feet tall when standing on their hind legs and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. The record male shot in Alaska (1960) weighed 2,210 pounds and stood 12 feet tall. Female polar bears can be two to three times smaller than males. Females are generally 6-8 feet tall and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.

Polar bears are physically the largest species of
bear.

Adult

The hairs on polar bears are actually hollow, however, their thickness allows polar bears to appear white and blend in with their Arctic surroundings. Their coat provides such great camouflage that they sometimes are mistaken for a snow drift. Their black skin, thick coat, and thick layer of body fat helps them stay warm in freezing conditions.

Are Polar Bears White?

Cub

Young cubs have thin fur and rely heavily on mama to keep warm. As newborns, they appear hairless because their fur is so fine.

Diet

Interestingly enough, polar bears do not catch and eat fish, as most Arctic fish swim at very deep depths and polar bears are not divers.

Being the world’s largest species of bear, polar bears need to maintain a calorie-dense diet to satisfy their enormous physique.

Being the world’s largest species of bear, polar bears need to maintain a calorie-dense diet to satisfy their enormous physique.

They are carnivores, meaning they eat meat, but they will occasionally eat plants and berries. Their main sources of protein include seals, walruses, and beluga whales. They have a high fat diet and rely on their prey as a source of water since most of the drinkable water is frozen.

When food sources are scarce, polar bears will hunt any animal they can prey off of, including rodents, reindeer, or seabirds.

Seals

Polar Bears are the most carnivorous member of the bear species. Their stomachs can hold 15-20% of their total body weight in preparation for their lack of calories while hibernating. A polar bear can go 8 full days without eating if they consume a seal weighing 121 pounds. Their diet consists mainly of ringed and bearded seals, occasionally consuming harp, hooded, or ribbon seals. They kill up to 44% of all newborn seals every year.

Others

Along with consuming both adult and infant seals, polar bears will scavenge from any available carcasses. This includes beluga whales, grey whales, bowhead whales, walruses, and narwhals.

They feed on the carcasses because polar bears are not capable of hunting such large animals. When food is scarce or unavailable, they will consume seabirds, fish, eggs, vegetation, berries, and human garbage.

Group

Did you know?

polar bears are the largest species of bear

Group-2021

Polar bear paws are four times the size of
human hands, averaging around 12 inches
in size.

The mass of their paws serves as a crucial survival tool in
Arctic conditions. It both stabilizes their weight over deep
snow and very thin ice, and provides great traction in
slippery conditions. A polar bear’s paw has thick, black,
papillae-covered pads. These soft papillae are dermal
bumps that enhance friction between the ice and paw to
prevent slipping. Slipping is also prevented by the long
hairs that are dispersed between their toes.

Group-2021

Social Behavior

Among polar bears, females and cubs share the highest form of social interaction

Polar bears have two social groupings: mothers and cubs, and breeding pairs

Breeding Pairs

During mating season, breeding pairs stay together for several weeks. Mates are usually found between late March to June. After females find their partner, the pair will mate several times. It is not uncommon for male polar

Mama & Cub

The highest level of social interaction is between the females and their cubs. This is because polar bear mothers are very attentive to their babies. Polar bear babies need large amounts of attention, including snuggle

bears to become aggressive toward other males throughout breeding season. Most adult females give birth once every three years, occasionally every two years if the bears have access to large quantities of food.

warmth, feeding, cleaning, etc. Females can have up to three cubs at one time. Mama and baby stay together for around two and a half years before the mother leaves the cub to discover the world on its own. During those two and a half years the cub is taught the ways of survival, such as identifying scents, hunting, and sheltering, in order to ensure survival after mama leaves.

Polar Bear Development

Photos Captured by Thomas Kokta

Pregnancy

Once a female has mated, she will need to gain at least 440 pounds
so she can carry out a successful pregnancy. Between August and
October, mothers will spend their pregnancy in search for an area to
build a den to keep their newborns protected from the harsh outside
temperatures. Birthing season is anywhere from November to
January. Cubs are born with their eyes closed, but they open within a
month. They also have very fine hair at birth, so they rely heavily on
mother for warmth.

Photos Captured by Thomas Kokta

Growing Up

They eventually leave their den so the cub can be taught how to hunt
and eat solid foods from their mother’s kills. A baby’s success rate for
hunting is low for their first year. Baby polar bears should reach
around 100 pounds by the time they reach eight months of age. As
the baby learns how to hunt and eat they will put on over 300
pounds, weighing around 400 pounds by two years. When a cub
reaches the 30 month old marker, the polar bear mother is ready to
leave baby. During this point, the cub is challenged to test all the
skills they have been taught to survive on their own.

Early Months

During the early months, cubs never leave their mom’s side because they’re always nursing or needing warmth. A baby nurses up to six times a day. A few months after their birth, typically March or April, mothers will begin exposing cubs to new environments. This exposure comes after the baby has adapted to cold temperatures and developed enough muscle to walk. After the first exposure, mama and baby will continue to utilize the den for several days until the baby is prepared to leave.

Aquatic Prey

The most common hunting method practiced by polar bears is still hunting. This is when a polar bear waits on the edge of ice and remain motionless as they wait for their prey, usually a seal, to surface. They will catch the seal by its head or upper body, then pull the entire seal onto the surface of the ice. Another common hunting method for aquatic prey is called aquatic stalk. Aquatic stalk is when a polar bear swims to a piece of sea ice and emerges from the water quickly to grab its prey. After capture, they disable the seal by biting it several times in the head and neck. They eat the skin and blubber first, then the meat, only leaving behind a few scraps.

Hunting

Land Prey

Stalking is a common hunting method polar bears use to capture food on land. This happens when a polar bear spots a seal and follows them from 15 to 30 meters away. They then charge at the seal and capture it before they can return to the Arctic water. When a mama and cub are hunting together, most often they will stalk seal birth lairs. These birth lairs are attached to land and are where seal pups reside. Mama and cubs use this hunting method because it avoids the crossing of water as well as baby interaction with any male polar bears since male polar bears do not hunt birth lairs.

Daily Activity

During warmer, sunny days, they will make snow pits to lay in, or just lay out without a pit to soak up the warmth of the sun.

Polar Bears are most active in the mornings. Their energy steadily depletes as the day falls into evening.

Polar Bears are most active in the mornings. Their energy steadily depletes as the day falls into evening.

Females and cubs hunt 19% of the day during Spring months, and
38% of the day during the summer months. Males hunt for a quarter
of their day in the spring, and 40% during the summer. When polar
bears are not hunting, they spend the majority of their day sleeping
and resting.

During warmer, sunny days, they will make snow pits to lay in, or just lay out without a pit to soak up the warmth of the sun. During colder, cloudier days, polar bears will find shelter to utilize for several months, depending on the severity of the winter.