From the Desk of Dan Ashe

5 Things You Didn't Know About Polar Bears

Polar Bear

5 Fun Facts about Polar Bears

Guest blog written by Rob Vernon, senior vice president of communications and marketing.

In honor of Polar Bear Day on February 27th, we’re sharing our favorite fun facts about polar bears, one of the most unique and amazing species on earth!

1. What color are polar bears?

While polar bears may appear to have white skin and fur, they actually have black skin and translucent fur, which appears white, their fur reflects light and helps them blend in with their surroundings.  

2. How far can polar bears swim?

Polar bears hunt for prey from sea ice and they have been observed swimming as much as 60 miles without rest and as far as 65 miles away from shore. However, polar bears are not designed to swim long distances. Due to the ever increasing decline of glaciers, polar bears are now forced to swim increasingly farther away to find sustenance. Unfortunately, as sea ice vanishes, polar bears are drowning because of larger distances between the ice.  

3. How much do polar bears weigh?

Adult male polar bears can weigh between 750 and 1,200 pounds, while adult female polar bears can weigh as much as 800 pounds after a season of eating seals and prior to denning. The largest polar bear recorded was a fully-grown male weighing 2,209 pounds!

4. How far can a polar bear smell?

Polar bears are skilled hunters with a keen sense of smell who can sniff out their prey from up to 20 miles away. Polar bears can often smell a seal’s breathing hole from up to a mile away, where he’ll camp out and wait for dinner to arrive.

5. Are polar bears endangered?

Polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and their population continues to decline as the polar ice caps continue to melt. Polar bears were one of the first species to become threatened by climate change, and due to the destruction of their sea ice habitat, their population is expected to decline by 30% by the year 2050.

How can we save polar bears?

Since 2008, polar bears have been classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Due to climate change, which has led to significant losses of sea ice, the number of polar bear habitats and polar bear populations are drastically declining below historical levels. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) partners with various organizations to help protect polar bears and their habitats through research, education, and conservation efforts. AZA-accredited facilities are leaders in animal welfare, saving species and endangered species conservation. Through our Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE), Species Survival Plans (SSPs), and Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA) programs/partnerships we are helping to spread awareness about species like the polar bear. 

AZA and Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International and their Arctic Ambassador Centers around the world work with AZA and its Polar Bear Species Survival Program (SSP), Green Scientific Advisory Group, the Ocean Project, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and other partners to inform the public on issues related to polar bear survival.  These efforts to save polar bears include educational outreach programs, funding of scientific research and the training of individuals on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their homes and communities.


Posted by Rob Vernon at 3:13 PM

I Accept

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website and you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Find a Zoo or Aquarium Donate to AZA Contact Us Member Login Search the site