Ursus maritimus
Class: Mammals
Order: Carnivores
Family: Bears

The polar bear's white coat and enormous size make it a familiar sight to all zoo visitors. In its natural environment, the cold arctic region, it spends most of its time on the ice. Sometimes it must travel far to find food.

Polar Bear

In winter, the polar bear catches seals using a combination of skill and patience. Polar bears cannot swim fast enough to catch seals underwater. The seal is also a mammal, however, and must come up through the ice for air. The bear blocks all but 1 of the ice holes and waits quietly near the 1 left free. When a seal shows its head, the bear hits it very hard with its huge paw and pulls it out of the water. If the bear goes underwater, it does so only to surprise a seal that resting on top of the ice. The bear then emerges from the hole in the ice and chases the seal. A polar bear can run faster than 15 miles per hour. On land, the seal is too slow to escape the bear. The polar bear also captures seabirds, such as auks, and small mammals. In the summer, a polar bear eats some parts of plants, especially berries. Sometimes it also catches fish.

Often several bears assemble where there is a lot of food. But usually, polar bears live alone, meeting a partner only at mating season. After mating, the female makes a large den in the snow where she keeps her young. The polar bear has been hunted for its fat, its fur, and for "sport". Today it is protected, but is still an endangered creature.