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. 

Due to their largely terrestrial lifestyle, polar bears are not directly affected by fishing operations. However, they may be indirectly impacted by expanding fisheries in the Arctic, if fish populations that seals rely on are overexploited. By limiting food availability, seal populations would decline, affecting top predators in the ecosystem, such as polar bears. A subsistence hunt targeting polar bears is carried out by Inuit communities, which is regulated by the Canadian government. This subsistence hunt has been around for centuries and has very high social, cultural and economic importance for Inuit communities.