Polar Bears

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The Polar Bear is the Largest Land Carnivore on Earth!

   The polar bear, Ursus maritimus, or the sea bear, is classified as a terrestrial mammal in Canada although it spends much of it’s life around or on sea ice.

   This iconic species is well adapted to cold Arctic temperatures. A male polar bear is the largest member of the bear family and can stand more than nine feet tall on its hind legs and weighs up to 1,200 pounds. Polar bears primarily eat the blubber of ringed and bearded seals and hunt using their keen sense of smell to track down seal birth lairs. With incredible patience, a polar bear will wait hours for a seal to surface from a breathing hole. In addition, polar bears have small, soft bumps known as papillae on the bottom of their feet that stop them from slipping on ice, a thin membrane shields their eyes while swimming, and they are so well insulated that heat-sensing cameras can usually only pick up their breath.

   The polar bear breeding season occurs in spring. Once a mate is selected, females experience delayed implantation, which means the embryo “floats” before attaching to the uterus wall. The female will then hunt and put on weight for a period of up to nine months before she dens and gestation occurs.

   Females generally gain between 400 and 500 pounds during their pregnancy. After approximately three months, cubs are born and weigh between 450 and 700 grams. Pregnant females will build a den for her cubs to be born in with a series of chambers. Once she has given birth, she will live in the den with her cubs. A female gives birth every three years or so, usually to twins that stay with their mother for about 2.5 years. Only pregnant females will den while other polar bears are active all year long.

   Polar bears have special significance in Canada because not only are we home to two-thirds of those in the world, but they are also of cultural, spiritual, and economic significance to the Inuit and many northern communities.

How Many Polar Bears Are There?

Polar bears are an Arctic species that can be found in Canada, the United States (Alaska), Greenland, Norway and Russia. In Canada, polar bears can be found in ice-covered regions from Yukon and the Bering Sea to Newfoundland and Labrador, and from northern Ellesmere Island south to James Bay.

There are 19 subpopulations of polar bears in the world, of which 13 can be found in Canada. As of 2014, the Canadian population of polar bears was estimated to be approximately 16,000 individuals.


Polar bears were listed as a species of Special Concern in November 2011 under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species lists polar bears as “vulnerable”.

There are lots of things you can do to help polar bears on a smaller scale. Buying local, organic food or lowering your thermostat a few degrees to conserve energy in your home can help reduce the effects of climate change which in turn can help polar bear populations.

What Is The Polar Bear’s Scientific Classification and Name?

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    Ursus maritimus (sea bear)