The polar bear is among the largest terrestrial carnivores on the planet, but its scientific name ‘Ursus maritimus’ also reminds us that it spends most of its life in and near water. The great Arctic predator is now in serious danger. Accurate estimates are difficult to obtain since this species lives, at very low densities, in inaccessible and uninhabited regions. Latest figures however say that between 20-21 thousand and 30-31 thousand, divided into 19 subpopulations, live in Arctic regions. Polar bears are covered in a layer of fat up to 11 cm that keeps them warm, especially while in water, and we are talking about Arctic waters. Adult males usually measure, starting from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, 2 to 2.5 meters and weigh 400 to 600 kg.
In contrast, the size of females is about half that. They are solitary animals, except during the breeding season, when they remain in pairs for about a week, then each on their own, roaming the ice. The pups, usually two, are born after about seven months and each weighs only 600 grams; after five months they begin to ingest solid food, but are not fully weaned for another 2-3 years. So the bond with the mother is very strong, and this means a longer time of protection at all costs that the mother devotes to the cubs.
The polar bear feeds mainly on ringed seals, although it also feeds on other species of seals, walrus juveniles, beluga whales, narwhals, small mammals, fish, seabirds and their eggs. It has an incredible ability to stay in the water for long periods of time, can swim great distances and reach speeds of 10 km/h, using its huge front legs as paddles while its hind legs act as a rudder. It can dive for up to two minutes, closing its nostrils, ambushing its prey directly from the water.