Polar Bears for Kids

© Dr. Steven C. Amstrup/Polar Bears International

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Polar bears live in the Far North in a cold place called the Arctic. They are big, powerful, white bears. Adult males normally weigh 351 to 546 kilograms (775 to 1,200 pounds). Adult females are much smaller, about 150 to 295 kilograms (330 to 650 pounds). 

The largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing 2,209 pounds. That’s big!

Polar bears are perfectly adapted for life on the sea ice. They hunt their main prey there: seals. Polar bears especially like to eat seal blubber. That’s because it has a high fat content. They sometimes eat other foods like walruses or beached whales, but seals are their most important food source. 

Polar bears don’t hibernate. Most of them remain on the sea ice all winter long to hunt seals. 

Pregnant female bears dig snow dens in the fall to give birth—but this is not a true hibernation. They remain in the dens for four to eight months. During that time, they don’t eat or drink and must live off their fat reserves.

Polar bears mothers usually give birth to twins. Polar bear cubs weigh just over one pound at birth! They are about the size of a stick of butter. They have fine, soft fur. 

Polar bear cubs remain with their mother in the den until they are three or four months old, drinking her rich milk. The cubs snuggle close to mom to stay warm.

When the cubs are big enough, the family leaves the den so the mother can return to the sea ice to hunt seals. She is very hungry at that point. 

Polar bears are at risk in a warming world. They need sea ice to hunt seals, and the sea ice is melting. This is caused by global warming from greenhouse gases

Scientists predict that we could lose two-thirds of the world’s polar bears by 2050 unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we could lose all of them by the end of the century unless we take action. This is why the polar bear is listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The good news is that it is not too late! Visit our How to Help page for ideas on how you can do your part. 

Polar bears are complex and fascinating animals! To dig more deeply into learning about polar bears, be sure to check out our School Report Materials page and our About Polar Bears section.

 

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