In The Wild
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are the largest living land carnivore, with adult males reaching up to 2.6 metres in length. They are found very north of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Their scientific name means "sea bear" which is appropriate as they are excellent swimmers and their fur is virtually water-repellent.
Their environment is extremely cold but they are able to withstand it. The polar bear's entire body is covered in fur, with the exception of their foot pads and the tip of its nose, which are black, revealing the dark colour of the skin underneath the distinctive thick white coat. Polar bears have large strong limbs and huge forepaws which are used as paddles for swimming, their toes are not webbed, but they have non-retractable claws which dig into the snow like ice-picks. The soles of their feet also have small indents which act like suction cups to help them walk on ice without slipping.
Their main food source is seals but when they are not available, polar bears will prey on young walrus, beluga whales and seabirds. Polar bears are able to detect prey almost a kilometre away and up to a metre under the compacted snow, using their heightened sense of smell.
When food is available they are able to eat large amounts rapidly. They are also metabolically unique as they can switch from a normal state to a slowed-down, hibernation-like condition at any time of year when there is less food available. During this fasting time, they metabolise their fat and protein stores
Polar bears are solitary animals throughout most of the year, except during the breeding season and when females have cubs.
Polar bears mate between March and May with females normally giving birth to one or two cubs in December. As females nurse and care for their cubs for two and a half years they are only able to mate once the cubs are independent, every three years. After successful mating, implantation of the fertilised egg is delayed until mid-September to mid-October, and the female gives birth to the young in a snow den approximately two to three months later.