With their majestic white fur, the polar bear is one of the most recognizable animals in the world. However, their fur isn’t white at all. Incredibly, polar bears have black skin, and their fur is colorless, simply appearing to be white because of how the light in the Arctic hits it.
But even though they’re not really white, their appearance serves them very well in the Arctic because it allows them to blend in with their surroundings. As polar bears are among the most carnivorous of all bears, this proves a big advantage that makes their way of life possible.
What Kind of Animals Are Polar Bears?
Though the name polar bear is well-known, their scientific name has nothing to do with where they live. The actual scientific name of the polar bear is Ursus maritimus, which underscores just how well polar bears can swim. In fact, polar bears are so adept in the water that they’re officially classified as marine mammals. Polar bears regularly swim for 30 miles or more and have been known to swim more than 200 miles at a time.
What Do Polar Bears Eat?
Polar bears are considered hypercarnivorous animals, meaning that more than 70% of their diet is meat. Most polar bears eat seals, whales, walruses and other marine mammals. Polar bears need a lot of fat and protein in their diets, and both of those nutrients are abundant in most marine mammals. Polar bears use their excellent swimming abilities to hunt marine mammals and have been known to wait for days in the water to allow a mammal to surface so that they can get their next meal.
Polar Bears in Pop Culture
One of the most well-known instances of polar bears in pop culture was in 1993 when Coca-Cola created a memorable ad based around the Northern Lights, which showed polar bears enjoying a Coke in homage to a 1922 ad. Since that ad, Coca-Cola has donated over $2 million to help polar bears in the Arctic.
How Do Polar Bears React to Humans?
Contrary to popular belief, polar bears don’t look for a fight when they see humans. Like most bears, they’re naturally cautious and avoid them. However, polar bears are also not accustomed to people and won’t back down when one approaches. If they do encounter a human, polar bears are very likely to attack, especially if they feel threatened. Because polar bears have little to no experience with people, they don’t see them as a real threat and have no qualms about eating humans should one cross paths with them.
Are Polar Bears Endangered?
As of 2019, polar bears are not endangered but are considered to be vulnerable. The biggest problem for polar bears is the loss of their habitat. Sea ice is melting rapidly in the Arctic because of climate change, and polar bears are struggling to find homes as a result.
If the ice in the Arctic continues to melt, the roughly 30,000 polar bears could find themselves seriously threatened in the near future as the polar ice is projected to disappear as soon as 2030.