Polar bears are the largest predators on land, and they are the largest of all bears?The scientific name for polar bear is Ursus maritimus, which means “sea bear.”
Polar bears live along shores and on sea ice in the icy cold Arctic. When sea ice forms over the ocean in cold weather, many polar bears, except pregnant females, head out onto the ice to hunt seals. Polar bears have been spotted on sea ice hundreds of miles from shore. When the warm weather causes the sea ice to melt, polar bears move back toward shore.
In fall pregnant polar bears make dens in earth and snow banks, where they’ll stay through the winter and give birth to one to three cubs. In spring the mother emerges from her den followed by her cubs. Generally, she will nurse them for two and a half years. During that time she will protect them and teach them how to hunt.
Polar bears primarily eat seals. Polar bears often rest silently at a seal’s breathing hole in the ice, waiting for a seal in the water to surface. Once the seal comes up, the bear will spring and sink its jagged teeth into the seal’s head.
Sometimes the polar bear stalks its prey. It may see a seal lying near its breathing hole and slowly move toward it, then charge it, biting its head or grabbing it with its massive claws. A polar bear may also hunt by swimming beneath the ice.
The U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Soviet Union signed an agreement in 1973 to protect polar bears. Each of these countries either banned hunting or established rules for how many polar bears could be hunted within its own boundaries. These rules help keep polar bear populations stable. Today, 25,000 to 40,000 polar bears roam the Arctic.