What Are Polar Bears?

The largest bear in the world and the Arctic's top predator, polar bears are a powerful symbol of the strength and endurance of the Arctic. The polar bear's Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means "sea bear." It's an apt name for this majestic species, which spends much of its life in, around, or on the ocean–predominantly on the sea ice. In the United States, Alaska is home to two polar bear subpopulations.

Fun Facts About Polar Bears

The Importance of polar bears. Why do they matter?

Polar bears are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Over thousands of years, polar bears have also been an important part of the cultures and economies of Arctic peoples.


The loss of sea ice habitat from climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears. Other concerns for polar bears include lethal response to human-polar bear conflict, toxic pollution in the environment, and direct impacts from industrial development, such as disturbance of maternal dens or contact with an oil spill, and potential overhunting of some subpopulations.