Species At Risk

Polar Bear

(Ursus maritimus)


Polar Bear
Polar Bear occurrences map


The Polar Bear is the largest species of bear and is among the largest carnivores found on land. The largest live captured bear from Ontario was a male weighing 654 kg (1440 lbs). Females are lighter and smaller, usually weighing less than 300 kg (660 lbs). The Polar Bear has translucent hair that appears white, allowing it to blend in with its snowy surroundings. It has water-repellent fur and large forepaws that make efficient paddles, making the Polar Bear a strong swimmer.


Polar Bears are present in Canada, the United States (Alaska), Greenland, Norway and Russia. In Canada they can be found as far south as Newfoundland in years when pack ice drifts farther south than usual. The Ontario population of Polar Bears is the most southerly in the world; it is limited to Hudson Bay and James Bay.


The Ontario population of Polar Bears can be found on the sea ice of Hudson Bay and James Bay from late fall until early summer. During the winter, Polar Bears roam widely over the sea ice and hunt Ringed and Bearded Seals. When ice in Hudson Bay and James Bay melts, the bears are forced onto land for several months. During this time, they are dependent on fat reserves they stored over the winter. During fall, pregnant females dig maternity dens in the sides of palsas (raised peat mounds), gravel ridges and river banks.


It’s believed that climate change is responsible for higher air temperatures in the north, causing the spring ice break-up to occur earlier and freeze-up to occur later. The extended ice-free season has a direct impact on the Polar Bear’s ability to hunt. Unregulated harvest and the accumulation of contaminants in prey also threaten the species’ survival.


The Polar Bear and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help Polar Bears

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Polar Bear . You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Reduce the impact of climate change by switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, adjusting your thermostat, taking shorter showers, and participating in tree planting initiatives.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.

Did you know?

Canada is home to two-thirds of the world’s Polar Bears.

Did you know?

On average, a Polar Bear needs to eat the equivalent of 43 ringed seals to meet its yearly energy requirements.

Did you know?

Pregnant female Polar Bears may not eat for up to eight months and may lose as much as 40 per cent of their body mass during this time.

Did you know?

Female Polar Bears give birth to one or two cubs, rarely three, each weighing a little over half a kilogram. Cubs are nursed inside the den for two to three months until they weigh about 10 to 12 kilograms. At that time, the mother leads her family back to the sea ice so she can resume hunting.

Did you know?

The annual distance travelled by radio-collared Polar Bears can exceed 3,500 kilometres.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.