WWF-Canada Blog:
Arctic


Ten cool facts for International Polar Bear Day

Polar bears are a powerful iconic symbol of the strength and endurance in the great white north.  With the celebration of International Polar Bear Day today, let’s learn about the magnificent species!

1. About 60% of polar bears live in Canada, from Labrador to the Yukon and from Ellesmere Island to James Bay.

polar bears

A mother polar bear and two cubs. Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada. © Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada

2. Its Latin name,Ursus maritimus, means ‘sea bear.”

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. © Marie-Chantal MARCHAND / WWF-Canada

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. © Marie-Chantal MARCHAND / WWF-Canada

3. Sea bear seems like a pretty apt name for a species that live and hunt mainly on the Arctic sea ice! They mainly eat seals, but will also catch and eat seabirds and even small whales.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) Churchill area, Manitoba, Canada. © Michel Terrettaz / WWF

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) Churchill area, Manitoba, Canada. © Michel Terrettaz / WWF

4. Typically, an adult male polar bear is an astonishing 6-10 feet long and weighs between 780 and 1,500 pounds!

 Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Churchill, Canada. © Staffan Widstrand / WWF

Polar Bear, Churchill, Canada. © Staffan Widstrand / WWF

5. Polar bears are good swimmers, their body fat help them float and they use their large forepaws to paddle and sometimes use their hind legs as rudders.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) coming out of water up onto the Arctic sea ice, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

Polar bear coming out of water up onto the Arctic sea ice, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

6. Polar bears thick under-fur, guard hairs, and ability to store significant fat keep them warm and powered up over the cold winter months. Their massive paws spread their weight evenly to keep them from falling through snow and thin ice.

Polar bear mother and young. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. © François Pierrel / WWF

Polar bear mother and young. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. © François Pierrel / WWF

7. Polar bears have three eyelids, the third helps protect the bear’s eyes from the elements.

Polar bear, Canada © J. D. Taylor / WWF-Canada

Polar bear, Canada © J. D. Taylor / WWF-Canada

8. Polar bears have translucent fur that appears white, but underneath their fur, their skin is black. They also have a blue tongue!

Polar bear Hudson Bay Canada  © Fritz Pölking / WWF

Polar bear. Hudson Bay Canada © Fritz Pölking / WWF

9. They have 42 razor sharp teeth. With jagged back teeth and canines larger than grizzly teeth!

Polar bear young bear in freezing water during autumn freeze up. North Slope, Alaska, Beaufort Sea. © naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWF

Polar bear young bear in freezing water during autumn freeze up. North Slope, Alaska, Beaufort Sea. © naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWF

10. Climate change is causing sea ice to melt much earlier in the year and return later, meaning polar bears have less time on ice to hunt seals, their favourite prey. This can lead to thinner bears, reduced cub survival, and a decrease in the overall polar bear population.

A tagged polar bear watching and waiting for the winter ice to form in November, near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada © Jacquie Labatt / WWF-Canada

A tagged polar bear watching and waiting for the winter ice to form in November, near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada © Jacquie Labatt / WWF-Canada

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Learn more about WWF’s important arctic work at wwf.ca/polarbearweek.


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