Polar Bear Facts

Polar bear at dawn

Polar bear at dawn

Here are a few polar bear facts, along with some links to more detailed information:

  • Polar bears, scientific name Ursus maritimus, are a ‘new’ bear. They evolved very recently, geologically speaking, from a common ancestor with the brown, or grizzly, bear — most estimates are around 200,000 to 250,000 years ago.
  • Polar bears live ONLY in the northern Arctic and subarctic regions, not in Antarctica as is sometimes mistakenly believed. See Polar Bear Habitat page.
  • Polar bears are the largest of the bears, overall, and some (too heavy to lift by scientists’ hoists) have been estimated to weigh nearly 1700 pounds, easily making them the world’s largest land predator. See Polar Bear Adaptations
  • Although, like almost all bears, polar bears are scavengers and will eat a wide variety of foods, both plant and animal, their main source of sustenance are seals. The two main seal species in their range are the ringed and bearded seals. See the What Do Polar Bears Eat page.
  • Are polar bears endangered? Not in the strict sense of the US Endangered Species Act. Read more in Are polar bears endangered?
  • Are polar bears social? Yes! Contrary to previous thought, polar bears are not solitary animals all year long. When given the opportunity, they gather to play and spar with each other and also dogs! Check out this video of polar bears and dogs playing!

For one of the best works on polar bear adaptations and evolution, read Canadian polar bear researcher Dr. Ian Stirling’s book Polar Bears. You can find the book on Amazon – clicking on the link below will open in a new window.

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