Polar Bears

The Polar bear is found only near arctic waters. It hunts mainly seals and also eats carcasses of walruses and whales. Polar bears are yellowish-white. They lose practically no body heat because their fur provides excellent insulation. They have bristles on their feet that prevent slipping on ice. Polar bears weigh as much as 1,600 pounds (725 kg).

Polar bearsPolar bears live in coastal regions around the North Pole.

The female digs a den in the ice where her cubs are born in winter. The male keeps active all year. Polar bear cubs stay with the mother until they are about 17 months old.

Do Polar Bears Live at the North Pole?

Polar bears don’t live at the North Pole. But they do live in the Arctic region around the North Pole. Polar bears do not live anywhere near the South Pole. And despite what you might think, polar bears are never found in the same habitat as penguins.

Fully grown male polar bears are around 8 to 11 feet (2.4 to 3.4 meters) long. Some weigh more than 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms). Females are smaller than males.

Polar bears differ from other bears in their coloring. Polar bears are white, creamy, or yellowish-white. This coloring helps these bears blend in with the snowy-white of their habitat. It hides, or camouflages (KAM uh fluh zhuhz), them while they hunt.

Polar bears eat mostly meat. They prey on sea animals, such as fish, seals, walrus, and dead whales. Polar bears also eat berries and grasses—when they can find them.

How Do Polar Bears Get Around?

Polar bears get around easily in and out of water. That’s important because polar bears live where there is a lot of sea ice. The sea ice breaks apart during the summer. The broken off pieces are called ice floes.

Polar bears travel on these floes and swim between them, islands, and the mainland. Polar bears are the best swimmers of all bears. They can swim at speeds of 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometers) an hour. A polar bear’s large forepaws act like paddles to move the animal through water. Webbing between the toes also helps the bear swim. Its long neck keeps the bear’s head above water.

On land, the polar bear’s broad paws spread weight and act like snowshoes. This helps the bear run fast. A polar bear can run up to 35 miles (56.3 kilometers) an hour—fast enough to catch reindeer.

How Do Polar Bears Keep Warm?

Polar bears have thick layers of fat beneath their skin. This fat helps keep them warm. The bears also have warm fur coats.A polar bear’s fur has an undercoat and an overcoat. The undercoat is made up of fine, white hairs. These provide warmth. The overcoat is made up of long guard hairs that shed water easily. The guard hairs are hollow. This helps trap heat from the sun, providing more warmth. When they get wet, the guard hairs mat together. This helps keep the bear’s skin dry. And a polar bear’s skin is black, which helps keep in heat. Polar bears have fur on their paws. This keeps their feet warm. It also prevents them from slipping on the ice.

How Do Polar Bears Hunt?

Like other bears, polar bears rely on their sense of smell to find prey. On land, they follow their prey on foot. Then they ambush, or attack by surprise.

A polar bear’s favorite prey is the ringed seal. A bear might spot a seal on an ice floe. The polar bear swims forward slowly toward the floe. Only its head is above water. Then the bear jumps up onto the ice and pounces on the seal.

Other times, a polar bear sits next to a seal’s breathing hole in the ice. It waits for a seal to come up for air. When it does, the bear grabs the seal with powerful forepaws and claws. It drags the seal up onto the ice and then eats it. A polar bear may share its kill with other bears. It would rather do this than fight to keep the meal to itself.