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Marine Mammals
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 Polar Bear

Image Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior, MMS

 Polar Bear
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 National Marine Sanctuaries Where Polar Bears Can Be Found:

 Related Environmental Issues:
  Point Source - Oil Spills
Non-Point Source - Runoff
El NiƱo
Habitat Loss
Climate Change

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Scientific Name: Ursus maritimus

Category: Polar Bears

Polar bears live throughout the entire circumpolar Arctic region. They are found in Russia, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and the United States. There are somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 polar bears in Alaska and about 25,000 worldwide. Polar bears live on Arctic ice and in the water.

As adults, polar bear males can reach 3 meters (about 10 feet tall) and weigh over 450 kilograms (about 1,000 pounds). Females are smaller averaging 2 meters (about 7 feet) and 180 kilograms (about 400 pounds). Their entire body is covered with thick white fur, which helps them blend in with their icy surroundings. They even have fur on the bottom of their paws to provide traction on the ice. Each individual hair on the bears body is a tube that channels heat from the sun directly to the layer of black skin that helps them stay warm.

Female polar bears can bear young when they are 5 years old. They build a den by digging into large snow drifts. The den provides shelter for the mother and her twin cubs. The mother bear stays with her cubs for over 2 years, teaching the cubs how to survive in the Arctic.

Polar bears travel an average of 24 kilometers (about 15 miles) per day or about 8,851 kilometers (5,500 miles) per year throughout their Arctic range. They feed on seals, walruses, and sometimes whale carcasses. Polar bears have no enemies in the wild. The most significant threats to the species are global warming and chemical pollutants. Scientists have found that as the climate warms, causing Arctic ice to melt earlier in the season, the body size and reproductive success of the polar bear decreases.

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