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 in Canada were classified by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2008 as of Special Concern. They are also listed under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as of Special Concern. Currently, the 13 subpopulations of polar bears found in Canada show varying population trends, with some showing decreases, some stable and some showing increases. However, they were given the designation of Special Concern because of the inherent threat of decreased availability of sea ice caused by climate change. This warrants concern and the need for further research on how the Arctic ecosystem is changing and how best to protect polar bears.