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The Polar Bear is the only marine bear to ever live. Making its home on sea ice, this bear is different in every way from its land living cousins.

CLASSIFICATION
A bear is any of several large carnivorous mammals, closely related to pandas, raccoons and members of the dog family. Carrying a heavy body, short tail and small head, this mammal differentiates itself from other carnivores in its family through its plantigrade feet (meaning both heel and soles touch the ground).

The Polar Bear, also known as the White Bear, the Water Bear, the Sea Bear and the Ice Bear, is a semiaquatic bear belonging to the family Ursidae, found solely throughout the Arctic regions.

CHARACTERISTICS
The polar bear's appearance is much different than that of others in the bear family. Perhaps the greatest difference between species lies in the polar bear's feet. Polar bears have five sharp, curved claws on each foot, which are used for grasping ice and holding prey. The pads of the bear's feet are protected by long hairs, which provide both traction on the ice and insulation against the cold. With heavy, plantigrade feet, polar bears are able to walk as humans do, with both their heel and sole touching the ground as they move. Their broad front feet with partially webbed toes, also allow this bear to swim at high speeds and travel effortless through the water, sometimes moving through 20-30 miles of water at a time. The polar bear can run at speeds of 25 miles per hour.

Male bears are generally larger than female, ranging in weight from 900-1, 600 pounds. Females weigh 500-550 pounds. An adult polar bear grows to 11 feet in height, and measures more than 8 feet in length.

Camouflaged against snow and ice, the polar bear has bright white fur which often turns yellow during warmer summer months. Heavy layers of blubber (often 4 inches thick) provides this animal with natural insulation and bouyancy.

Polar bears usually live on drifting ice, but sometimes will wander long distances inland.

FEEDING
Polar bears have an extremely good sense of smell and are unusually clever when it comes to obtaining food. Feeding primarily on ringed seals, bearded seals, walruses and white whales, the polar bear stalks and manipulates its prey. When food is scarce, the polar bear can and does survive on a diet of berries, sedges, mussels and kelp.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
As with other bears, the polar bear mother forms a strong bond with its young. Weighing about 2 pounds at birth, the cub's eyes remain closed for the first 40 days of life and survive by nursing every few hours. The mother can often be found cradling a cub in her arms to keep them warm.

By contrast, male polar bears are solitary mammals that tend to roam. During the breeding season from May to June, they fight furiously over females, and then return to the sea, where they rarely interact with other bears.

A female bear, once pregnant, makes a winter den in the snow. She produces two cubs per year, born in January. Cubs remain with their mother for about a year and half, during which time the mother teaches the young how to hunt.

Polar bears live 25-30 years in the wild and considerably longer in protected areas.

TODAY
Today, Polar bears are hunted extensively in Greenland, Canada, Russia and Alaska. Polar bear populations are considered secure today, as they tend not to share their habitat.