Polar Bears Ursus maritimus are the largest land carnivores in the world. Also the most carnivorous of all bear species, polar bears feed primarily on the fat of ice-dependent seals in their Arctic sea ice habitat.
Polar Bears have a variety of adaptations to life in the cold, wet Arctic. Their fur is thicker than any other bears’ and covers even their feet for warmth and traction on ice. A thick layer of blubber beneath their fur provides buoyancy and insulation. And their front feet are large, flat and oar-like, making them excellent swimmers.
The most important habitats for polar bears are the edges of pack ice where currents and wind interact. These are the areas of where polar bears can find the greatest number of seals. As the sea ice advances and retreats each season, individual polar bears can travel thousands of miles to find food.
According to the IUCN Red List, Polar Bears are listed as a Vulnerable species. Their numbers are declining, and their habitat — sea ice — is shrinking. It’s believed that there are only 20,000 to 31,000 polar bears living in the wild. The IUCN reports that the polar ice cap is predicted to completely melt within the next 100 years. This will leave polar bears without a home and will affect the polar bear population greatly. Unfortunately, as ice melts and polar bears are forced to spend more time onshore, they come in contact with coastal communities. These interactions can end badly for both humans and bears.
Efforts are being made to protect these iconic ocean bears. The International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears that was signed in 1973 by the five nations Canada, Denmark (Greenland) Norway, Soviet Union (Russian Federation) and USA.