Polar Bear Facts

Taxonomy: The scientific name for the polar bear is Ursus maritimus, which means 'Sea Bear' in Latin.

Distribution and Population: Polar bears are found throughout the ice-covered waters of the Arctic region and prefer to remain out on the sea ice all year if possible.  The sea ice provides a platform from which polar bears can hunt.  As the ice retreats north during the summer months, polar bears travel with the ice floes and continue to hunt seals (Stirling and Guravich 1990, p 61).

Polar bears are usually found in the northern marine areas of Alaska, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Norway's Svalbard Archepelago, Greenland and Canada (Lynch 1993, p 5).

Scientists estimate there are between 25,000 to 40,000 polar bears in the world.  They also believe the polar bear population is divided into 6 core populations, with members of each core never mingling with the other core populations (Lynch 1993, p 6).



Myth: Polar bears are solar

polar_bear.jpgFor decades, scientists believed that polar bear hairs function as fiber-optic conductors. They believed the hairs collect ultra-violet light and direct it to the black skin where it is somehow converted into heat. This speculation began in the 1970’s when scientists learned that polar bears absorb UV light, making them appear black in UV light. Based on circumstantial evidence, indirect inferences, and misinterpretations, scientists created mathematical models to estimate the efficiency of energy transference in the hairs.


Polar Bears and Dogs

polar_bear_and_dog.jpgBrian Ladoon of Churchill, MB, breeds sled dogs in the midst of polar bears. Each summer, the bears come ashore from Hudson Bay and wait for ice to re-form in fall so they can go out and hunt seals again.

Instead of shooting bears that come near his dogs, Brian worked out a way to coexist.

He found that most of the bears simply wanted to play. So did the dogs. He found he could stake out the dogs and let the bears and dogs play.