The world polar bear population is estimated to be between 21,000 and 28,000. The largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing 2,209 pounds and measuring 12 feet long. A polar bear may rove an area as big as Alaska.
A polar bear’s fur is not white. The hair shafts are actually transparent with a hollow core. Polar bears look white because the hollow core scatters and reflects visable light, much like ice and snow does. The polar bear’s skin is black.
Because a polar bear is so well-insulated it experiences almost no heat loss. Male polar bears quickly overheat when they run. This is due to the bear’s blubber layer which can measure 4.5 inches thick.
The polar bear’s paws are well adapted to navigating in the Arctic. The polar bear’s paws are designed for use in the water as well as on the ice. The forepaws serve as large paddles when the bears are swimming, while the hind paws serve as rudders. Each paw measures up to 12 inches across (31 centimeters). The polar bear’s large paws help distribute the animal’s weight when it is treading on thin ice. The claws also provide traction.
The polar bear’s sharp, strong claws help the animal catch and hold its prey. The polar bear’s main prey is the ringed seal, the most numerous seal in the Arctic. A polar bear can smell a seal more than 20 miles away.
Polar bears are champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without a rest. Polar bears have been clocked swimming as fast as six miles per hour. Polar bears are also skilled divers. and can easily swim from one ice floe to the next. Polar bears have excellent underwater vision and can spot food up to 15 feet away. When a polar bear gets out of the water, it shakes water from its fur like a dog.
Polar bears communicate with each other through a combination of body language and vocalizations. Growls are used to defend a food source. When a polar bear wants to play he wags his head from side to side.
Hissing and snorting signify aggression as does a lowered head. An attacking polar bear will charge forward with head down and ears laid back. Angry polar bears communicate their displeasure with loud roars and growls.