Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


The polar bear is the largest land carnivore and is probably the most well known of all the bears, with its distinctive thick white fur (which usually turns more yellow with age).  The males reach an enormous size, usually being double the size of the females. They are the masters of their environment and have no natural enemies, apart from man.

(C) USFWS Headquarters

Polar bears are brilliantly adapted for their life in the Arctic, one of the coldest places on Earth. Their coat camouflages them and helps to keep them warm, along with up to 10cm of blubber! Their body is completely covered in fur apart from the soles of their feet and the tip of their nose. Underneath all that fur their skin is actually black, to help absorb as much heat as possible. Their legs and feet are very large and powerful, making them excellent swimmers, and their long necks and narrow heads help to make them streamlined.  The pads on their feet have dents and bumps on them which act like suction cups and allow them to walk on the ice without slipping. Their short sharp claws also help with this, by acting like ice picks.

Polar bears are the most carnivorous of the bears, mainly preying on seals. They have a brilliant sense of smell, being able to sniff out seals that are half a mile away and swimming past under up to a metre of compacted snow. They often catch seals by waiting by their breathing holes and catching them when they come up to breathe. After they have eaten, polar bears wash themselves clean with snow or water.

(C) Amanda Graham
(C) Stefan Cook

Polar bears tend to live alone, but will tolerate and even play with other polar bears. An individual polar bear can travel thousands of miles in a single year. They can swim up to 100 miles in one go without stopping for a rest.

Polar bears get enough fluids form their diet, so they do not need to drink.

While all bear species are well adapted to coping with their environment, polar bears are highly specialised for life in the Arctic. Global climate change poses a real threat to the habitat of polar bears.  Arctic sea ice is melting at an alarming rate and should climatic trends continue, it is feared that two thirds of the world’s polar bears will be lost by 2050. The diminishing sea ice, and the increase in human activity in the Arctic, means that hungry bears are forced to spend more time on land where they are more likely to come into conflict with people.

Males: Boar
Females: Sow
Body Height (shoulder to floor): 130-160cm
Tail Length: 7-12 cm
Body Length: 1.9–3m
Weight: 100-700 kg
Life Expectancy: 25 years
Diet: Ringed seals, Bearded seals, walruses, sea birds
REGION: Alaska, Russia
HABITAT: Pack ice of Arctic
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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