Perhaps one of the most iconic animals of the Arctic, it is the largest of its species and the largest carnivore on land. Females weigh between 300 – 550 lbs. (120 – 250kg) and can be up to 8 feet (2.4m) tall when standing, while males can weigh as much as 1500 lbs. (680kg) and stand up to 10 feet (3m) tall. This powerful predator is the Polar Bear.
These kings and queens of the cold are perfectly suited for life in the Arctic Circle, where temperatures average -30°F (-34°C) in the winter months. Despite its white appearance, Polar Bear fur is actually clear, it lacks pigment and their skin is black! The longer guard hairs stick together when wet to protect the undercoat and their ears and tail are small and compact to minimize heat loss.
Polar Bears have a 4 inch (10cm) layer of blubber to insulate them and help keep them warm. The fat also acts as an energy reserve when food can’t be found, it may also aid in their buoyancy. Their paws can measure 12 inches (30cm) in diameter, the fore paws are partially webbed and the paw pads are covered with little bumps called papillae. These papillae along with long hairs between the toes prevent slipping by creating friction on the snow and ice surface.
Relying on the sea to survive so much that they are actually considered marine mammals and their scientific name, Ursus maritimus, means “sea bear.”
Polar Bears primarily prey upon seals but may also hunt walruses, beluga whales, reindeer and sometimes feed on whale carcasses.