Polar bear in exhibit
Scientific Name
Ursus maritimus
Geographic Range
Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and Alaska
Seals (walruses, whale carcasses, bird eggs, and vegetation)
Polar bear in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Vulnerable Endangered Status Graph - Vulnerable

More Information

Polar bears are adapted to cold weather with their thick fur and large paws, which help them distribute their weight without breaking through ice. Their black footpads are covered with small, soft bumps called papillae that help them grip on slippery surfaces. They also have tufts of fur between their toes and footpads for additional grip. Their claws are thick, curved, and sharp, measuring about 2 inches long. They have partially webbed feet and are considered marine mammals.

These bears are generally solitary animals except when mating or taking care of cubs. They breed in late spring and experience delayed implantation, meaning that the embryo will not implant in the female bear’s uterus until conditions are right in the fall. Twins are common among polar bear births, and newborns weigh just one pound. Offspring remain in the den with their mother until March or early April. The mother does not eat or drink during the entire denning process. Polar bears reach maturity around 4–6 years of age.

Did You Know?

  • Polar bears are the largest carnivorous land mammals on earth. They measure 7–8 feet long from nose to tail and males can weigh more than 1,700 pounds.
  • Polar bears spend most of their time at sea, but they cannot hunt seals underwater, so they use sea ice as a hunting platform. Unfortunately, climate change is reducing the amount of sea ice.
  • Polar bear fur is hollow and reflects light. Underneath the fur, the skin is black and covers a layer of fat.


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