Polar Bears: Giants of the Arctic Ice

Polar Bears: Giants of the Arctic Ice

Polar bears are the majestic rulers of the Arctic, known for their thick white fur and powerful presence. These solitary animals are not just icons of the icy north but also key indicators of the health of their Arctic marine environment. Let’s explore the fascinating aspects of polar bears, from their habitat and range to their conservation status, behavior, diet, and physical characteristics.

Habitat and Range: A Life on Ice

Polar bears call the vast and chilly Arctic their home. They roam across the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, primarily within the territories of five countries: the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway (Svalbard) 2. The sea ice is crucial for polar bears as it serves as a platform from which they hunt their prey, mainly seals. These bears have adapted to a life on the move, following the seasonal expansion and contraction of the ice 2 3.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable and at Risk

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies polar bears as a vulnerable species, and they are also listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act6. The primary threat to their survival is the loss of their sea ice habitat due to climate change. As the ice melts, polar bears are forced to travel greater distances and face longer periods without food, which can lead to starvation and decreased reproduction rates 6 14.

Behavior and Diet: Expert Hunters of the Arctic

Polar bears are carnivorous and skilled hunters, specializing in catching seals. They employ various hunting techniques, such as still-hunting, where they wait patiently by a seal’s breathing hole, and stalking, where they sneak up on seals resting on the ice 1 4. Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals, but they can also eat walruses, beluga whales, and other available prey when seals are scarce 1 15.

Physical Characteristics: Built for the Cold

These bears are the largest land carnivores, with males weighing between 350 to 700 kilograms (775 to 1,540 pounds) and females about half that size 9 16. Their white fur provides camouflage in the snowy environment, and beneath it lies a layer of fat up to 11 centimeters (4.3 inches) thick, which insulates them against the freezing temperatures 9 18. Polar bears also have large, slightly webbed paws that help them navigate the ice and swim proficiently 9.


Polar bears are not just symbols of the Arctic but are vital to its ecosystem. Their survival is intricately linked to the sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate. Protecting these magnificent creatures means addressing the broader issues of climate change and working towards a sustainable future for our planet. By understanding the importance of polar bears and the challenges they face, we can take action to ensure they continue to thrive in their Arctic home.

<1> https://ypte.org.uk/factsheets/polar-bear/food-and-hunting
<2> https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears-changing-arctic/polar-bear-facts/habitat/
<3> https://polarbearagreement.org/polar-bear-biology/habitat-needs-and-characteristics
<4> https://animals.mom.com/feeding-habits-polar-bears-2823.html
<5> https://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/research-posts/polar-bear-diet-changes-as-sea-ice-melts
<6> https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears-changing-arctic/conservation-concerns/
<7> https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/polar_bear/natural_history.html
<8> https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/polar_bear/
<9> https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears-changing-arctic/polar-bear-facts/adaptions-characteristics/
<10> https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/polar-bear
<11> https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/polar-bear/diet/
<12> http://www.bearconservation.org.uk/polar-bear/
<13> https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/polar-bear/habitat/
<14> https://www.fws.gov/press-release/2023-09/us-fish-and-wildlife-service-finds-polar-bear-status-remains-threatened
<15> https://www.arcticwwf.org/wildlife/polar-bear/polar-bear-diet/
<16> https://www.britannica.com/animal/polar-bear
<17> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear
<18> https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/why-do-polar-bears-have-white-fur-and-nine-other-polar-bear-facts

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