TEMPORARY CLOSURE: The zoo is closed until further notice following city and state recommendations to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Read More


Polar Bear Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Ursus maritimus
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    Polar bears make their homes on the ice of the Arctic Ocean, where they hunt seals and other blubber-rich prey. During summer, the bears can occasionally be found on islands and icy coastlines.

  • Status

    This massive predator is classified as vulnerable. As the bears are dependent on ice to hunt their prey, global warming has left them with a shrinking habitat. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan®, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

  • Habitat

    Polar bears inhabit the ice floes surrounding the North Pole. They can be found in Canada, Alaska and even the southern shores of Greenland and Iceland.

  • Niche

    Polar bears are carnivorous, preying mostly on seals. They often lay in wait for their prey, staking out a seal’s breathing hole in the ice and attacking when the marine mammals resurface. Polar bears are strong swimmers and can head under the ice to sneak up on prey. The energy-rich blubber of seals provides polar bears with the nutrients they need to stay warm in their icy home.

  • Life History

    Polar bears are solitary, coming together only to breed. After mating, females will dig snow dens to give birth to their litters of one–four cubs. Cubs are born blind and helpless, and they remain in the den for months as they mature. Even after leaving the den, cubs are dependent on their mother's care for two–three years. Male polar bears are known to prey on cubs, so females have to be vigilant in defending their young.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The polar bear's thick coat helps it to stay warm, and black skin beneath helps the species absorb heat. Beneath the skin, a sizable layer of blubber—up to five inches thick—helps the mammal stay warm.
    • In addition to insulation, the polar bear's coat provides camouflage as well. By blending into the snow of the Arctic, the predator is better able to stalk prey.
    • Thick fur on the polar bear's feet helps the species maneuver on the ice.


Sign Up for ZooMail Weekly

Get the latest on upcoming events, new arrivals and more!

All Content © Lincoln Park Zoo.

2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

Get Map/Directions Call 312-742-2000

your zoo is...