Find out where polar bears – Ursus maritimus – live and what are the features and reasons for choosing their habitats
Ursus maritimus, which means “sea bear” in Latin, is more commonly known as a polar bear. These furry mammals are excellent swimmers and can be found in the cold oceans of the far north.
But where do polar bears live?
Here, on Futurenow.com.ua, we will tell you about the habitats of polar bears.
Where do polar bears live?
Most polar bears live in the Arctic. More precisely, they live north of the Arctic Circle to the North Pole.
But they can also be found south of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Hudson Bay and James Bay, as well as in Alaska, Russia, Greenland, and some of the northern islands belonging to Norway, including Svalbard. The World Wildlife Fund reports that 60% of polar bear subpopulations live in Canada.
Polar bears live on the sea ice, where their favorite snacks (seals) live. You can find polar bears on land if there is no sea ice nearby, or swimming between floating ice islands in warm weather.
More about the distribution and habitat of the polar bear
Polar bears or their tracks have been found almost north of the pole; however, scientists believe that only a few bears visit areas north of 88°N on the ice above the continental shelf. There is little food for them in the northern part of the Arctic Ocean.
The southern range of polar bears is limited by the amount of sea ice that forms in winter. Polar bears prefer to travel on sea ice and must have ice from which to hunt seals.
In the south, polar bears visit southern Labrador, Newfoundland and Norway annually. In years with thick pack ice, they can reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bering Sea.
The southernmost polar bears live year-round in James Bay, Canada.
Most polar bears live close to land at the edge of the polar basin, where the continental shelf creates ideal hunting conditions.
Scientists believe that there are 15 relatively distinct polar bear subpopulations (with four more recognized for management purposes). A subpopulation is a group of polar bears that interbreed with a range that is independent of, but overlapping with, that of other polar bears. For example, two subpopulations live in the James Bay/Hudson Bay area: one in western Hudson Bay and the other in northwestern Ontario and James Bay…
Polar bears’ habitat and characteristics
Polar bears inhabit Arctic sea ice, water, islands, and continental coasts. Polar bears prefer sea ice with hummocks and holes, near the continental coast or islands.
Hummocks are water channels or cracks in the ice that can remain open (free of ice) for several minutes to several months, depending on weather conditions and water currents. Polar bears hunt seals in the straits using sea ice as a platform.
Icebreakers are areas of water surrounded by ice that remain open throughout the year due to winds, currents, and tidal currents. They are important breathing and feeding grounds for wintering and migrating marine mammals and birds.
Some polar bears follow along the southern edge of the ice pack year-round, making extensive migrations as the ice recedes and advances.
Some polar bears spend part of the year on land. They have been found inland at a distance of 402 km.
In warmer climates, polar bears may become stuck on land. In the summer, sea ice melts along the coast and pack ice (floating sea ice, or ice floes not connected to land) is pushed so far north that polar bears cannot reach it, even though they are excellent swimmers.
Most pregnant females spend the fall and winter on land in maternity dens.
The average temperature in the Arctic is -34°C in winter and 0°C in summer.
The coldest region in winter where polar bears live is northeastern Siberia, where temperatures can drop to -69°C (-92°F). The warmest areas in summer are inland Siberia, Alaska, and Canada, where temperatures can reach 32°C (90°F).
The ocean temperature in the Arctic in summer is about -1.5°C (-1.5°F). In winter, the ocean temperature can drop to -2°C as the sea water begins to freeze.