Polar bear fact sheet | Critical species | Wildlife & habitat | Science & policy | Critical species | Issues
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Canada is home to nearly 60 per cent of the world's polar bears.

Polar Bear Facts

  • Nearly 60 per cent of the world's polar bears live in Canada.
  • Polar bears spend so much time on ice and in the water that some scientists consider them to be marine mammals.
  • Polar bears can swim up to 100 kilometres.
  • Polar bears use sea ice as a hunting platform to catch seals and other marine mammal prey. Without sea ice, they have difficulty meeting their dietary needs.
  • Male polar bears can be two to three times larger than females—one of the greatest differences between sexes in all mammals.
  • The largest recorded polar bear weighed a whopping 1,002 kilograms (2,209 lbs.) and measured 3.7 metres (12 ft.) long.

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  • Polar bears are so well insulated that they easily overheat and sometimes swim in frigid waters to cool down.
  • Six out of eight members of the bear family are now considered endangered in Canada.
  • A recent study disproved the theory that the hollow hairs of the polar bear's coat carried light to its dark skin to warm the bear.
  • The Canadian two-dollar coin or "toonie" features a polar bear.
  • A polar bear can eat up to 46 kilograms (100 lbs.) of food at one sitting.

Sea Ice and Polar Bears

Temperatures are rising far more rapidly in the Arctic than in the rest of the world. Since 1978, sea ice cover has declined by approximately nine per cent per decade, and the rate of melting appears to be increasing each year. This loss of sea ice threatens Canadian wildlife, like the polar bear, which are wholly dependent on the Arctic sea ice habitat for survival.

Sea ice is so important to polar bears that scientists have defined seven types of sea ice habitat and have documented different preferences for each.

Polar bears use sea ice for a variety of purposes including hunting, seeking out mates and travel.

Temperatures are rising far more rapidly in the Arctic than in the rest of the world. Since 1978, sea ice cover has declined by approximately nine per cent per decade, and the rate of melting appears to be increasing each year. This loss of sea ice threatens Canadian wildlife, like the polar bear, which are wholly dependent on the Arctic sea ice habitat for survival.

Scientists have identified a strong correlation between the decline in polar bears and the reduction in sea ice in Western Hudson Bay, which is breaking up on average seven to eight days earlier per decade. When the sea ice melts earlier, the population of polar bears in the Western Hudson Bay are forced to come ashore, where they do not eat until their return to the ice.

Recent studies show that the increased time on land is leading to weight loss, physical deterioration and decreased rates of reproduction. Scientists have predicted that by 2012 most females in the Western Hudson Bay population will be below the minimum required weight for successful reproduction.

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/wildlife-habitat/science/critical-species/polar-bear-fact-sheet/

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