Polar Bear

Scientific Name:
Ursus maritimus
2.4 - 3.0 m (8.0 - 10.0 ft)
350 – 700 kg (772 – 1,543 lbs)
Mainly ringed and bearded seals, but occasionally vegetation, geese, bird eggs and small mammals. Rarely marine mammals such as Belugas.

Physical characteristics

Compared to other species of bears, the polar bear's body is more elongated with a longer skull and nose, but smaller ears and tails. The feet are very large, up to 30 cm across, but the claws are short and deeply scooped on the underside to assist in digging in the ice. The usually white fur yellows with age and sometimes turns into a pale green in captivity.

Behavioral characterization

Polar bears are not territorial. Although they are commonly characterized as very aggressive, they rather choose to run than to fight. Provoked or very hungry polar bears however have been known to hunt and eat humans. They communicate very actively with a wide range of vocalisations.


The annual sea ice covering the waters over the continental shelf and the Arctic inter-island archipelagos.

Population size

Estimated 25,000.



Migration/Dispersal patterns

They follow the migration patterns of their main prey, the ringed and bearded seals, to the south.

Social system/Group size

Male polar bears live usually solitary, but they have been seen to play and occasionally sleep in groups.

Major threats

Hunted by humans. Global warming reduces their habitat and forces them to come closer to more urban areas to find prey.

Research efforts


Fun fact

People often see illustrations of penguins and polar bears together, but this could never happen in the wild. In fact, the word Arctic comes from the Greek word for bear, and Antarctic comes from the Greek meaning the "opposite of the Arctic" or "opposite of the (great) bear."