Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Ursus maritimus

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Quick Facts
Height: 8 to 11 feet when standing on back legs; on all four they are 3.5 to 5 feet tall
Weight: Male: 775 to 1,200 pounds; Females: 330 to 650 pounds
Distribution: Arctic regions around the North Pole and frozen coastal plains of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, and the United States (southern limits are determined by distribution of pack ice)
Habitat: Coasts and islands, pack ice, and nearby waters; they are most common in areas of upwellings where currents increase productivity and thin the ice
Wild Diet: Ringed seals, bearded seals, seabirds, fish, vegetation, and carcasses of marine mammals (berries in summer), grass
Zoo Diet: Herring, trout, occasionally live bluegill and crappie in summer, produce, lard, meat, bones, and high-protein dog chow; the meat-to-vegetable ratio replicates seasonal variability in the wild

Polar bears are sexually dimorphic in size. Males are larger than females are. Polar bears are covered in a thick, dense coat of hair. Each hair is a hollow tube that lacks pigment. When the sunlight bounces off the hair shaft, it appears white in color. Wild bears may look yellowish in the summer due to the oxidation of seal oil on their coat. Their fur does not repel water; polar bears can become hypothermic (their body temperature is too low) if they are immersed too long. They have 4 to 5 inches of blubber that insulates their body. They have a small, round head and a long neck. Their feet are flat, large, and oarlike. They have a membrane between their toes that is up to half the length of the toes. These are adaptations for swimming. Fur covers the soles of the paws, except for the foot pads. This provides traction and warmth against the ice. Black skin under the fur absorbs the warming ultraviolet rays of the sun. They have a very long neck and small ears. Their nose, foot pads, and the skin under their fur is black.

Status in the Wild

Listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).

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