[171], In Greenland, hunting restrictions were first introduced in 1994 and expanded by executive order in 2005. [52] Adult male polar bears weigh 350–700 kg (770–1,500 lb) and measure 2.4–3 metres (7 ft 10 in–9 ft 10 in) in total length. Models developed by some scientists predict an increase in polar bear starvation as a result of longer ice-free seasons and a decline in mating success, since sea-ice fragmentation could reduce encounter rates between males and females. For the polar bears that currently den on multi-year ice, increased ice mobility may result in longer distances for mothers and young cubs to walk when they return to seal-hunting areas in the spring. In unusually warm conditions, the hollow tubes provide an excellent home for algae. [156] The treaty allows hunting "by local people using traditional methods". [2], Steven Amstrup and other U.S. Geological Survey scientists have predicted two-thirds of the world's polar bears may disappear by 2050, based on moderate projections for the shrinking of summer sea ice caused by climate change,[90][190] though the validity of this study has been debated. Its hearing is about as acute as that of a human, and its vision is also good at long distances. [48][62] Current estimates put the global population at between 20,000 and 25,000[39] or 22,000 and 31,000. Ursus marinus [173], The Soviet Union banned the harvest of polar bears in 1956; however, poaching continued, and is estimated to pose a serious threat to the polar bear population. ", "Ecological risk assessment of persistent organic pollutants in the arctic", "Chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants and metabolites in polar bears (, "Rebuttal of "Polar Bear Population Forecasts: A Public-Policy Forecasting Audit, "The Energetic Value of Land-Based Foods in Western Hudson Bay and Their Potential to Alleviate Energy Deficits of Starving Adult Male Polar Bears", "Can polar bears use terrestrial foods to offset lost ice-based hunting opportunities? [126][127] As of 2006, in Alaska, 42% of cubs were reaching 12 months of age, down from 65% in 1991. Because of their dependence on the sea ice, polar bears are classified as marine mammals. [68] Males have significantly longer hairs on their forelegs, which increase in length until the bear reaches 14 years of age. It is known, for example, that already in the winter of 1784/1785 Russian Pomors on Spitsbergen harvested 150 polar bears in Magdalenefjorden. [17] In Quebec, the polar bear is referred to as ours blanc ("white bear") or ours polaire ("polar bear"). [93] For subadult bears, which are independent of their mother but have not yet gained enough experience and body size to successfully hunt seals, scavenging the carcasses from other bears' kills is an important source of nutrition. [37][39] The subpopulations display seasonal fidelity to particular areas, but DNA studies show that they are not reproductively isolated. The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a large bear which lives in the Arctic. In Hudson Bay, the availability of seal pups in the spring is increasingly limited by earlier melting of ice. Polar bears rely on the ice to travel, hunt seals, breed, and in some cases, den. [53] The polar bear is among the most sexually dimorphic of mammals, surpassed only by the pinnipeds such as elephant seals. [36][183][184][185][186][187], The key danger posed by climate change is malnutrition or starvation due to habitat loss. [199], Polar bears diverged from brown bears 400,000–600,000 years ago and have survived past periods of climate fluctuation. The loss of sea ice habitat from climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears. Young polar bears testing their strength. [117], Courtship and mating take place on the sea ice in April and May, when polar bears congregate in the best seal hunting areas. Polar bears primarily eat seals. [43] Sport hunting can bring CDN$20,000 to $35,000 per bear into northern communities, which until recently has been mostly from American hunters. Adult polar bears have no natural predators, though walruses and wolves can kill them. Once a male finds a receptive female, he may have to fight off other males to retain her company. [21] The oldest known polar bear fossil is a 130,000 to 110,000-year-old jaw bone, found on Prince Charles Foreland in 2004. According to Hoshino, the bear started running but Hoshino made it to his truck. [10], Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species. They were also diving to feed on blue mussels and other underwater food sources like the green sea urchin. [159] In September 2015, the polar bear range states agreed upon a "circumpolar action plan" describing their conservation strategy for polar bears. [95] Adult male bearded seals, at 350 to 500 kg (770 to 1,100 lb) are too large for a female bear to overtake, and so are potential prey only for mature male bears. The polar bear kills the seal by biting its head to crush its skull. Numerical changes to each population occurring between 1998 and 2013 are shown. No, polar bears are not an endangered species, but they are threatened. Britannica now has a site just for parents! Polar bears often rest silently at a seal's breathing hole in the ice, waiting for a seal in the water to surface. Their huge size and weight make them the largest living carnivores (meat eaters) on Earth! [100][105] The dump in Churchill, Manitoba was closed in 2006 to protect bears, and waste is now recycled or transported to Thompson, Manitoba. They will even attack adult walruses when their diving holes have frozen over or intercept them before they can get back to the diving hole in the ice. They still manage to consume some seals, but they are food-deprived in summer as only marine mammal carcasses are an important alternative without sea ice, especially carcasses of the beluga whale. Babies are born blind. polar bear facts Basics. [168], Due to warming air temperatures, ice-floe breakup in western Hudson Bay is currently occurring three weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago, reducing the duration of the polar bear feeding season. The resulting high concentrations cause Hypervitaminosis A,[150] Hunters make sure to either toss the liver into the sea or bury it in order to spare their dogs from potential poisoning. [90], The polar bear's most common hunting method is called still-hunting:[91] the bear uses its excellent sense of smell to locate a seal breathing hole, and crouches nearby in silence for a seal to appear. Polar bears can swim 10 km/h (6 mph). Compared to the Antarctic, where there is no major surface predator, Arctic seals use more breathing holes per individual, appear more restless when hauled out on the ice, and rarely defecate on the ice. [176], The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 afforded polar bears some protection in the United States. The male's ornamental foreleg hair is thought to attract females, serving a similar function to the lion's mane. In some areas, the polar bear's diet is supplemented by walrus calves and by the carcasses of dead adult walruses or whales, whose blubber is readily devoured even when rotten. Strong, sharp claws are also important for gaining traction, for digging through ice, and for killing prey. [101][102] Most terrestrial animals in the Arctic can outrun the polar bear on land as polar bears overheat quickly, and most marine animals the bear encounters can outswim it. [174], Polar bears are currently listed as "Rare", of "Uncertain Status", or "Rehabilitated and rehabilitating" in the Red Data Book of Russia, depending on population. [73], Brown bears tend to dominate polar bears in disputes over carcasses,[136] and dead polar bear cubs have been found in brown bear dens. [31] However, the feet are very large to distribute load when walking on snow or thin ice and to provide propulsion when swimming; they may measure 30 cm (12 in) across in an adult. [72] With its body fat providing buoyancy, the bear swims in a dog paddle fashion using its large forepaws for propulsion. [158] The treaty was ratified in October 2007. They put on weight quickly. This hibernation-like state does not consist of continuous sleeping; however, the bear's heart rate slows from 46 to 27 beats per minute. Ursus polaris The polar bear's life cycle is closely tied to sea ice. [125] Adult bears of either gender occasionally kill and eat polar bear cubs. Research of injury patterns in polar bear forelimbs found injuries to the right forelimb to be more frequent than those to the left, suggesting, perhaps, right-handedness. The bear stalks seals resting on the ice, ambushes them near breathing holes, and digs young seals from snow shelters where they are born. By springtime, they weigh more than 20 pounds and start exploring with their mother outside the den. Polar bear fur is made up of a layer of dense underfur and an outer layer of "guard hairs", which appear white to tan but are actually translucent.The fur keeps them very warm. Under the skin is a layer of insulating fat. [225], This article is about the animal. Polar bears feature prominently in East (North Child in the UK) by Edith Pattou,[221] The Bear by Raymond Briggs (adapted into an animated short in 1998),[222] and Chris d'Lacey's The Fire Within series. …strong swimmers, most notably the polar bear. The melting sea ice in the Arctic may be causing an increase of orcas in the Arctic sea, which may increase the risk of predation on polar bears but also may benefit the bears by providing more whale carcasses that they can scavenge. The skulls of killed polar bears were buried at sacred sites, and altars, called sedyangi, were constructed out of the skulls. [103] When sea ice is unavailable during summer and early autumn, some populations live off fat reserves for months at a time,[62] as polar bears do not 'hibernate' any time of the year. They may also eat plants, including berries, roots, and kelp;[109] however, none of these have been a significant part of their diet,[100] except for beachcast marine mammal carcasses. [178] Since 1994, hundreds of sport-hunted polar bear trophies have been imported into the U.S.[179] In 2015, the U.S. After several years of negotiations, Russia and the United States signed an agreement in October 2000 to jointly set quotas for indigenous subsistence hunting in Alaska and Chukotka. Polar bears have been known to kill people. [76][77] However, due to their lack of prior human interaction, hungry polar bears are extremely unpredictable, fearless towards people and are known to kill and sometimes eat humans. The tail is 7–12 cm (3–5 inches) long. [116] One scientist found that 71% of the Hudson Bay bears had fed on seaweed (marine algae) and that about half were feeding on birds[95] such as the dovekie and sea ducks, especially the long-tailed duck (53%) and common eider, by swimming underwater to catch them. [128] In most areas, cubs are weaned at two and a half years of age, when the mother chases them away or abandons them. In 1973, the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears was signed by all five nations whose territory is inhabited by polar bears: Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Soviet Union, and the United States. [149], In the first half of the 20th century, mechanized and overpoweringly efficient methods of hunting and trapping came into use in North America as well. Ten polar bear facts. [30] As the distance increases between the pack ice and the coast, females must swim longer distances to reach favoured denning areas on land. Importing products made from polar bears had been prohibited from 1972 to 1994 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and restricted between 1994 and 2008. 24% had eaten moss recently, 19% had consumed grass, 34% had eaten black crowberry and about half had consumed willows. Ursus labradorensis [73], The relationship between ringed seals and polar bears is so close that the abundance of ringed seals in some areas appears to regulate the density of polar bears, while polar bear predation in turn regulates density and reproductive success of ringed seals. Polar bear, (Ursus maritimus), also called white bear, sea bear, or ice bear, great white northern bear (family Ursidae) found throughout the Arctic region. Name: Kermode bear (often called spirit bear or ghost bear) Scientific name: Ursus americanus kermodei Average weight: 70 kg (females) 135 kg (males) but can reach 290 kg Shoulder height: 100 to 120 cm Average lifespan: Up to 25 years Did you know? The most accurate counts require flying a helicopter in the Arctic climate to find polar bears, shooting a tranquilizer dart at the bear to sedate it, and then tagging the bear. Norway is the only country of the five in which all harvest of polar bears is banned. Whereas northern communities kill all the polar bears they are permitted to take each year, only half of sport hunters with permits actually manage to kill a polar bear. [73], Researchers tracked 52 sows in the southern Beaufort Sea off Alaska with GPS system collars; no boars were involved in the study due to males' necks being too thick for the GPS-equipped collars. Cubs weigh less than 1 kg at birth and are not weaned until after they are two years old. [67], The white coat usually yellows with age. Polar Bear teaches the value of remaining inconspicuous until the moment arrives for your unveiling. [23], The evidence from DNA analysis is more complex. In Svalbard, polar bears were observed to kill white-beaked dolphins during spring, when the dolphins were trapped in the sea ice. Orbital Resonances. The bears then proceeded to cache the carcasses, which remained and were eaten during the ice-free summer and autumn. [31] As predicted by Allen's rule for a northerly animal, the legs are stocky and the ears and tail are small. Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing ability. It was believed that the "little nephew" (the brown bear) would not dare to attack a man wearing the tooth of its powerful "big uncle", the polar bear. [20] The subfamily Ursinae originated approximately 4.2 million years ago. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/animal/polar-bear, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment - Polar Bear, The National Wildlife Federation - Polar Bear, polar bear - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), polar bear - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up), International Union for Conservation of Nature. Yet, they have often been seen playing together for hours at a time and even sleeping in an embrace,[78] and polar bear zoologist Nikita Ovsianikov has described adult males as having "well-developed friendships. Scientists believe polar bears are unlikely to survive if ice-free periods exceed their fasting ability (220 days), especially in … The Canadian two-dollar coin carries an image of a lone polar bear on its reverse side, while a special millennium edition featured three. [148][149] Polar bear remains have been found at hunting sites dating to 2,500 to 3,000 years ago[151] and 1,500-year-old cave paintings of polar bears have been found in the Chukchi Peninsula. Fifty long-distance swims were recorded; the longest at 354 kilometres (220 mi), with an average of 155 kilometres (96 mi). Risks to the polar bear include climate change, pollution in the form of toxic contaminants, conflicts with shipping, oil and gas exploration and development, and human-bear interactions including harvesting and possible stresses from recreational polar-bear watching. An oil spill in the Arctic would most likely concentrate in the areas where polar bears and their prey are also concentrated, such as sea ice leads. By the time the mother breaks open the entrance to the den, her cubs weigh about 10 to 15 kilograms (22 to 33 lb). If a sport hunter does not kill a polar bear before his or her permit expires, the permit cannot be transferred to another hunter. [141][142] A rather unlikely killer of a grown polar bear has reportedly included a wolverine (Gulo gulo), anecedotely reported to have suffocated a bear in a zoo with a bite to the throat during a conflict. [87] Studies have also photographed polar bears scaling near-vertical cliffs, to eat birds' chicks and eggs. Ice melts earlier and re-forms later than it has in the past. Member countries agreed to place restrictions on recreational and commercial hunting, ban hunting from aircraft and icebreakers, and conduct further research. The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest terrestrial carnivore in the world, rivaled in size only by the Kodiak bear.Polar bears play an important role in the life and culture of the Arctic Circle. Another adaptation is polar bears’ use of only their front limbs when swimming, which is found in no other four-legged mammal. This fauna, together with the vegetation that feeds the lemming, ptarmigan, and caribou, forms a tight ecological…. Polar bears are studied to gain understanding of what is happening throughout the Arctic, because at-risk polar bears are often a sign of something wrong with the Arctic marine ecosystem. (2011). [75] Satiated polar bears rarely attack humans unless severely provoked. [118] A study in Hudson Bay indicated that both the reproductive success and the maternal weight of females peaked in their mid-teens.Maternal success appeared to decline after this point, possibly because of an age-related impairment in the ability to store the fat necessary to rear cubs.[130]. Distribution and Population: Polar bears are found throughout the ice-covered waters of the Arctic region and prefer to remain out on the sea ice all year if possible. It is also called white bear or northern bear.It has black skin under the white fur. Yet, polar bears will very seldom attack full-grown adult walruses, with the largest male walrus probably invulnerable unless otherwise injured or incapacitated. 2) These are seriously big bears, gang. [43], In August 2011, Environment Canada published a national polar bear conservation strategy. [80], In general, adult polar bears live solitary lives. Polar bears consume a wide variety of other wild foods, including muskox (Ovibos moschatus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), birds, eggs, rodents, crabs, other crustaceans, fish[108] and other polar bears. The polar regions complete a rotation in 12 hours being the most pronounced differential rotation of any planet in the Solar System, resulting in strong latitudinal wind shear. Facts about these endangered animals, their life in the North Pole, and arctic circle, and the food sources they hunt and scavenge for. Under those restrictions, permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service were required to import sport-hunted polar bear trophies taken in hunting expeditions in Canada. Polar bears are able to produce water through the metabolism of fats found in seal blubber,[50] and are therefore found primarily along the perimeter of the polar ice pack, rather than in the Polar Basin close to the North Pole where the density of seals is low.[51]. Thalarctos maritimus, The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a hypercarnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. Updates? Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. [138] Adult polar bears are occasionally vulnerable to predation by orcas (Orcinus orca) while swimming, but they are rarely reported as taken and bears are likely to avoid entering the water if possible if they detect an orca pod in the area. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... See how a polar bear preys on a walrus in this video. But under their fur, polar bears have black skin—the better to soak in the sun's warming rays. [148] The fur was used in particular to make trousers and, by the Nenets, to make galoshes-like outer footwear called tobok; the meat is edible, despite some risk of trichinosis; the fat was used in food and as a fuel for lighting homes, alongside seal and whale blubber; sinews were used as thread for sewing clothes; the gallbladder and sometimes heart were dried and powdered for medicinal purposes; the large canine teeth were highly valued as talismans.

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