Paws, Claws, Ears and Tails

Paws. Polar bear paws are perfect for roaming the Arctic. Paws measure up to 12 inches across (31 centimeters) and help distribute weight when treading on thin ice.

When ice is very thin, polar bears extend their legs far apart and lower their bodies to distribute their weight even more. They are expert at placing each paw precisely and quietly when stalking seals.

When swimming, forepaws act like large paddles and hind paws serve as rudders.

Black footpads on the bottom of each paw are covered by small, soft bumps known as papillae. Papillae grip the ice and keep the bears from slipping. Tufts of fur between their toes and footpads may help with purchase as well, as can their claws.

Polar bears typically move slowly and methodically—conserving energy.

Claws. Polar bear claws are thick and curved, sharp and strong. Each can measure more than two inches (5.1 centimeters) long. Bears use their claws to catch and hold prey—and to provide traction on the ice.

Ears and Tails. Polar bears' ears are small and round and their tails are short and compact. This helps bears conserve heat.

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