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Animal spotlight: Polar Bear

Polar bears are distinctive looking bears due to their white fur. Adapted to blend into their native snowy landscape, polar bears are indigenous to the icy Arctic. Polar bears have fur and skin that allow them to absorb sunlight for warmth and their paw pads have rough surfaces that help prevent them from slipping up on the ice.

Due to global warming, polar bears are now listed as an endangered species.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The largest of all bears and the largest predator on land, polar bears primarily eat seals (although they also snack on fish and penguins) and so they tend to stay close to the shorelines of the Arctic. Polar bears are expert hunters that can grab seals from holes in the ice’s surface or even swim after them under the water. Their blubber (also known as “fat”) insulates them in cold water. Polar bears are excellent swimmers and can swim 100 miles at a time! In fact, the scientific name for polar bear is “Ursus maritimus” which means “sea bear.”

Adult males polar bears generally weigh between 720 and 1,700 pounds and adult females are usually between 500 and 600 pounds. Males can grow to ten feet in length; the height of a one-story building! Polar bears live about 25 years. The gestation (pregnancy) period for a polar bear is eight months. Generally, polar bears get pregnant in the fall and make their dens in snowbanks where they stay throughout the winter. On average, they give birth to one to three cubs per litter. In the spring, a mother polar bear will emerge from her den followed by her cubs. The cubs will stay with their mother for about two and a half years and, during that time, she will protect them and teach them how to hunt.

Only human beings prey on polar bears. Polar bears are actually among the most threatened species due to global warming and so a lot of environmental action has been taken to protect polar bears, not prey on them. In 1973, the United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Russia signed an agreement to protect polar bears. At present, even more people are working to save polar bears that are now listed as an “endangered species.”