Polar Bear | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Polar Bear

Ursus maritimus

Also known as

Sea bear, ice bear, white bear, Nanuq


Circumpolar Arctic


Ice edge and coastal regions

Feeding Habits

Aggressive predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/data deficient


Order Carnivora (carnivorans); Family Ursidae (bears)


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Polar bears are a true Canadian icon. They have great cultural significance, particularly for Inuit and other northern communities. Almost two thirds of the world’s polar bears are found in Canada. Although polar bears appear white, their skin is actually black and their two dense layers of fur are transparent, reflecting light and directing heat from the sun’s rays down the hair shaft where it is absorbed by their black skin. 

Polar bears are perfectly adapted for life in the Arctic. Their large, wide paws, strong claws, and the small bumps and fur on the underside of their paws all help them to easily traverse the sea ice. They are considered marine mammals, just like whales, because of their dependence on the ocean. Polar bears are strong swimmers, using their long streamlined body and wide paws to move between ice floes with ease. Their fur looks creamy- to yellowish-white in colour and they have a small head in comparison to their body. On average, polar bears are the largest member of the bear family, with males able to reach 2.8 meters in length and weighing up to 800 kilograms. More commonly, however, adult males range from 2.4 to 2.6 meters in length and weigh between 400 and 600 kilograms, with smaller adult females typically 1.9-2.1 metres in length and weighing 200 to 300 kilograms.