Polar Bear Facts For Kids
Polar bears, also known as Ursus maritimus by their scientific name, are the largest carnivore living on land in the Arctic.
Even though we might think so, they don’t live with the super cool penguins, who actually live in Antarctica.
Let’s explore some polar bear facts!
Quick Polar Bears
- Polar bears are actually black. Underneath all that fur, their skin is jet black. And their fur has no color at all. It only looks white because it reflects visible light.
- A group of polar bears is called a “pack” or a “sleuth.”
- Their sense of smell is really strong and Polar bears can sniff out a seal on the ice up to 20 miles away.
- The polar bear population is on the decline. Currently, there are about 26,000 polar bears in the wild.
- Polar bears have 42 teeth.
- The scientific name for the polar bear is ‘ursus maritimus’.
- The polar bear was the mascot for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
Where are Polar Bears found?
There are five countries that are lucky to have polar bears and they are the United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway.
They’ve got some pretty cool names that people refer to them by including (obviously) “Polar Bears”. But other name are Sea Bears, White Bears or Beliy Medved in Russia, Isbjorn in Denmark, Lord of the Arctic, Ice Bear or Nanuk to the Inuits, which means an animal worthy of great respect.
Which name will you call the Polar Bear? Sadly they are on the vulnerable list of endangered species.
How do they hunt for food?
They are very big and powerful white bears. Some scientists think that they started to evolve about five million years ago from brown bear ancestors.
That is a seriously long time ago! They are brilliantly adapted for survival in their icy homes and they hunt seals in openings on the ice – called leads – or at breathing holes.
They wait silently for hours or days for seals to come to the surface.
If one bear ‘owns’ a large carcass, it might share it if the guests approach low-to-the-ground, circle the carcass slowly and touch the nose of the bear in charge.
How interesting is that…they need to do a dance for some food! A polar bear can also hunt by swimming beneath the ice.
They mostly eat seal blubber because of its high fat content but sometimes eat walruses and beached whales. If stranded on land, they will eat vegetation, geese, bird eggs and occasionally caribou.
They can survive for seven to ten days without food.
How large are polar bears?
An adult male normally weighs between 775-1,200 pounds (351-546 kilograms).
The largest polar bear ever recorded weighed 2,209 pounds (over 1,000 kilograms), which is about the same as an average car. That’s unbelievable!
Adult females weigh about 330-650 pounds (150-295 kilograms).
More cool facts about Polar Bears
- 42 razor sharp teeth
- Paws measuring up to 12 inches (about 30 centimeters) across. These paws distribute their weight when they’re treading on thin ice. They also act as paddles and rudders when swimming.
- An excellent sense of smell. They can sniff out their seal meal on the ice 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, or at a breathing hole more than half a mile away under water (which is just under one kilometer)
- Excellent sight and hearing.
Polar bears are also very intelligent!
Polar Bear Cubs
Females usually have two cubs that stay with their mother for about two and a half years, learning to hunt and survive.
Polar Bears don’t hibernate, but mother bears live in dens to raise their cubs, where they don’t eat or drink during that time.
How do Polar Bears Communicate?
Polar Bears use body language and vocal sounds to have a chat to each other.
They sway their heads from side-to-side when they want to play; make chuffing sounds when stressed; loud roars, hisses or growls when they’re angry and deep growls when they’re defending food.
They also attack with lowered heads and ears laid back and move downwind to show submission.
Are Polar Bears Actually White?
Although Polar Bears appear white, their fur is actually transparent, and has a hollow core. It looks white because it reflects visible light. Under their fur, polar bear skin is actually black with a layer of fat about 4.5 inches (11.5 centimeters) thick.
This layer helps keep them warm under water.
Mother bears are reluctant to swim with young cubs during cold spring temperatures as the cubs don’t have enough fat to keep warm; it’s their dry fur that keeps them warm.
Polar bears look whitest when they are clean and in sunlight. Before molting, oils from the seals they eat can make them look yellow. In San Diego Zoo in 1979 polar bears turned green because of algae growing in their hollow hair shafts.
Luckily, they turned white again with the zoo fixing and algae.
Biologists gather information about Polar Bears by fitting them with plastic belting tracking collars. They stay flexible in cold temperatures.
Nowadays, GPS is used to track them and is accurate within 30 feet (10 meters).
Most collars are fitted with an automatic release mechanism and a clock set to drop off on a specific date.
Collars don’t interfere with the bear’s natural activities. Bears can be followed for a long time to learn about their movements, hunting patterns, distances covered, time spent on land and in the water, their use of habitat and the rate of survival of cubs.
Now aren’t these just the coolest animals around? We hope you’ve learnt some cool stuff about Polar Bears!