Polar Bear Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Polar Bear

Scientific Name:

Ursus maritimus

Wild Status:



Perimeter of the polar ice pack


Arctic Circle


sea ice

Life Span:

25 years


Female height 5.9 – 7.9 ft. Male height 4.4 ft Male weight 990 pounds Female weight 330 to 550 pounds

Cool Facts:

  • Polar bears are black not white. Their fur is translucent and appears white but their skin is actually black.
  • Polar bears can swim for many hours and long distances without stopping.
  • Polar bears are the only bear species to be considered a marine mammal.
  • Polar bears are not usually successful on their hunts.
  • In 2006 genetic testing confirmed the existence of polar bear-grizzly bear hybrids.
  • Polar bears have a strong sense of smell and are able to detect seal breathing holes.
  • Polar bears are found throughout the Arctic region including  Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway in 19 subpopulations.
  • Polar bears tend to be solitary until mating season.
  • Cubs are very playful and mother polars bears are known to be very protective of their young.


Polar bears are very large bears and are similar in size to the Kodiak bear.  They are found in the Arctic Circle and are born on land but will spend the majority of their time in sea ice. They do not hibernate like other bears.  They have very large paws and each pad contains small, soft papillae (dermal bumps), which provide traction on the ice. Polars bears main diet consists mainly of seals, harp, carcasses of beluga whales, walruses, narwhals, reindeer, rodents, crabs and they will sometimes kill a young beluga whale or walrus.  If live food is not available they will eat seaweed and long-tailed ducks. When polar bears come into contact with people they will investigate and eat garbage including including hazardous substances such as styrofoam, car batteries and plastic. Polar bears need to eat a lot in the summer months in order to build up enough fat reserves to survive the denning period from October or November until March or April. Female polar bears give birth to one or two cubs who weigh about one pound. Females produce about five litters in their lifetime. Cubs stay with their mothers until they are a little over 2 years old.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Ursidae Genus: Ursus Species: Ursus maritimus  

Conservation & Helping:

One of the main threats to polar bears is climate change. As the temperature warms up and ice melts more polar bears are starving. The farther they have to go to hunt for food the more energy they use up and the skinnier they become. The Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan was created to focus on two US subpopulations in Alaska and was introduced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to help with climate change mitigation.    

For Teachers and Educators


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