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Polar Bear Ursus maritimus


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Polar Bear
credit: Hannes Gro/CCSA

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Family: Ursidae, Bears view all from this family

Description A very large, white bear of the Arctic. Longer neck and relatively smaller head than other bears. Fur may appear yellow in summer. Females first breed at age 5-6, and pregnant females may weigh up to 500kg.

Dimensions 2.3-2.6m, 7-12cm, 400-800kg; / 1.9-2.1m, 7-12cm, 175-300kg

Warning All North American bears can be dangerous in the following situations: when accompanied by cubs, when surprised by the sudden appearance of humans, when approached while feeding, guarding a kill, fishing, hungry, injured, or breeding, and when familiarity has diminished their fear of humans. There have been several recorded cases of Polar Bears attacking humans.

Breeding Breeding season is April-May but delayed implantation slows gestation until fall, and cubs are born in December. Neonates are tiny (600g) but grow quickly in the den, and emerge at 10-12kg in March or April. Cubs remain with their mother for 2.5 years, learning to hunt seals on the sea ice. Only pregnant females overwinter in dens; all others remain active.

Habitat Offshore waters, Beaches, shorelines & estuaries

Range Alaska

Discussion Ringed seals are the prey of choice, but they also take bearded seals, and occasional harp seals, hooded seals, walruses, belugas, narwhals, and even sea ducks. They are able to fast for up to 8 months if food is unavailable. Threatened by melting ice associated with global warming and airborne pollutants that accumulate in polar regions. Home ranges may exceed 300km_ in areas of receding ice. Pursues fish and seal prey in pack ice and coastal regions.