Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are survival specialists in an extreme environment—the Arctic, where winter lasts six months and temperatures average -30ºF. Their large body size, layers of thick, hollow hair, and three to four inches of blubber provide insulation from the cold, in and out of the water. The bears’ streamlined shape, partially webbed forepaws, and buoyant layer of blubber help make them champion swimmers. Polar bears depend completely upon the sea for their existence, spending most of their time on the pack ice from which they hunt their preferred prey. The polar bear is a skillful predator of seals, with the help of a keen sense of smell, powerful paws, and sharp claws.
- Where to see them: Arctic Ocean and coasts
- Height: 7 to 11 ft
- Weight: Up to 1,500 lbs
- Lifespan: 15 to 18 yrs in the wild
- Habitat: Arctic ice and coastal shores
- Diet: Primarily seals, some walrus, lemmings, lichens, mosses, and carrion
- Risk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Vulnerable)