Popular myths depict polar bears and penguins living alongside each other, but this is only an ‘urban legend’.
So, where do polar bears live?
Polar bears live only in the Arctic region of the northern hemisphere, along the high Arctic shorelines of Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and parts of Norway, as well as the sea ice of all of these regions.
While most bears live in the Arctic region, substantial populations live in the northern temperate zones and the sub-Arctic. Breeding populations extend from western Hudson Bay, south through the Churchill, Manitoba area to James Bay in the southern Hudson Bay area. Polar bears can also be found on Ontario’s eastern Hudson Bay shore and along the Labrador coast all the way down to Newfoundland.
Most polar bears spend part of the year on the sea ice hunting their favorite prey, seals, and part of the year, summer and early fall, on the shore. Some polar bears do spend much of their life on the permanent sea ice in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole, but this is not a large sector of the population.
As global warming causes a shrinkage in year-round ice, the percentage of polar bears who can be found here will undoubtedly shrink, particularly in the southern limits of their range. See Churchill Polar Bears Endangered. Permanent sea ice in the North Pole region is diminishing rapidly also, however, and at current melting rates, the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free for several months in the summer within a few years.
Where do polar bears live? Popular myths die hard, so let’s put this one to rest: polar bears live in the northern hemisphere’s Arctic regions, not in the Antarctic!
For more details about about the bears’ lives in this region, see the page Polar Bear Habitat.
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.