Polar bears have always been icons of the Arctic, and one of the most popular animals that guests want to see on our trips – they’re one of our favourites too. We love all things polar – and bears are no exception!
Canada is home to approximately 60% of the world’s polar bear population. Their habitat in Canada ranges from James Bay in the south to Ellesmere Island in the north, and east to west from Labrador to the Alaskan border. We are thrilled to be able to provide opportunities to see these majestic animals for guests from around the world.
Whether you are gearing up for a trip to the north, or just want to learn more about them, here are 10 facts about polar bears:
1. The classic white bears are not really white.
Polar bears actually have black skin and hollow, colourless hair. Their hollow fur reflects light and traps the sun’s heat to help keep them warm.
2. Polar bears can overheat.
Though they are adapt to survive Arctic temperatures, which can dip below -50°C, they can also overheat. This becomes more of a risk when running and in the summer – when temperatures rise above freezing and up to 20°C.
3. Polar bears clean themselves by rolling in the snow.
Can you blame them for wanting to keep themselves clean? Staying clean also helps the insulating properties of their fur, so after feeding they will often freshen up by taking a swim or roll in snow. Rolling in the snow also helps cool them off when they get too hot.
4. They’re quick on their feet.
Polar bears can reach speeds of up to 40km per hour (25 mph) on land.
5. …and in the water.
Polar bears are also excellent swimmers and can comfortably swim around 10 km per hour (6mph). They use their large front paws to propel themselves through the water and their back legs to steer. Their latin name actually means “sea bear”.
(FYI: You can see them swimming on Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island)
6. Giants of the Arctic: Polar bears are one of the largest carnivores that live on land.
Males can weigh more than 770kg (1700lbs).
7. They have a good sense of smell.
Polar bears can sniff out seals – their main food – from up to 1 km (0.6 miles) away and even under 1m (3 ft) of snow.
8. A female polar bear will have an average of five litters of cubs in her life time.
Two-thirds of polar bear litters are twins!
9. Polar bears in the wild can live up to 30 years.
Most live 15 to 18 years.
10. The biggest threat to polar bears is climate change.
Global warming causes sea ice to melt earlier, and form later each year. This give polar bears less time to hunt, and studies have shown that polar bear litters are also declining in size. There are more than 22,000 polar bears across the Arctic, but many scientists believe they could be gone within 100 years. Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International deems polar bears “the most vulnerable of any species to a warming world” and says two-thirds of all polar bears will be gone by 2050 if nothing changes.
Want to see them this year?
We provide opportunities to view and photograph polar bears in the Canadian Arctic from March to November.
Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari – October & November
Spring Polar Bears of Baffin – March & April
Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari – May & June
Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage – May & June
Kings of the Arctic: Polar bears, Whales, Walrus – June & July
Want to see polar bears but not sure which trip is for you?
Click here to get in touch with one of our Travel Advisors – they are happy to help!
Want to create your own polar bear adventure?
Contact us to ask about custom trips.