HOME RANGE: Polar bears are found on the shores, islands and pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. Mature males often spend years out on the ice, while the pregnant females come ashore to den. They are circumpolar in the northern hemisphere, occurring in Eurasia as well as North America. There are permanent populations in James Bay and the southern part of Hudson Bay. The polar bear still occupies most of its historic range.
ANIMAL SUMMARY: An adult male usually weighs 800-1,000 pounds. Females are about 25 percent smaller. Whether the polar bear or the Alaska brown bear is the world's largest land-based carnivore is a matter of conjecture, because few wild specimens of either have been weighed. The polar bear has a streamlined body that has adapted to an aquatic way of life. It has a longer neck than other bears, a relatively small head, long and massive legs, and large feet with hairy soles. The coat is a yellowish-white, which acts to conserve body heat and serves as camouflage in its snowy habitat. Eyes, nose, lips and toenails are almost always black.
BEHAVIOR: The polar bear is solitary except when mating or sharing a large carcass such as a stranded whale. Mating season is from March until June, with implantation apparently delayed several months so the cubs are born in November to January, while the mother is in her winter den. The female gives birth every 2-4 years, with a litter numbering 1-4, but averaging two. Cubs remain with the mother 2 to 2 1/2 years. Females are fully grown at five years, males at 10-11 years. Longevity in the wild is estimated at 25-30 years. The most carnivorous of all bears, it feeds primarily on ringed seals, with bearded seals the second choice, followed by harp seals and hooded seals. It also scavenges carcasses of walrus, whales and narwhals. It will kill other polar bears and, at times, young walrus. It eats crustaceans, fish, small animals, birds, eggs and vegetation when other food is unavailable. A great traveler, it roams the pack ice and surrounding seas in search of seals. Polar bears have been observed swimming as much as 40 miles from the nearest ice or land. It sometimes swims with all four feet, but more often uses only the forefeet, with the hind feet trailing behind. It swims high in the water, with its head and shoulders exposed, and can attain a speed of 4 mph. If killed in the water, it does not sink immediately. Pregnant females den for the winter like other bear species (on shore, often in a hole on a steep mountain slope), but males and non-pregnant females remain active all winter. Its sense of smell is excellent and eyesight is adequate. Its hearing is good, but the polar bear is not alarmed by most sounds because of its noisy environment in the continually grinding ice pack.
Super Ten®/Super Slam®: Grand Slam Club/Ovis, parent organization for the Super Ten®/Super Slam®, supports the work of Conservation Force and SCI. Information found here contains excerpts from the on-line and printed version of Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals and is used by permission. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.
Polar Bear Range in North America: The map above is used by permission from the on-line Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.