Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellant coat that insulates them from the cold air and water. Considered talented swimmers, they can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder.
Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food. A polar bear might catch only one or two out of ten seals it hunts, depending on the time of year and other variables. Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive.
Scientists have divided the total polar bear population into 19 units or subpopulations. Of those, the latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that one subpopulation is in decline (Southern Beaufort Sea) and that there is a high estimated risk of future decline due to climate change and data deficiency.
Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears were listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008.
The survival and the protection of the polar bear habitat are urgent issues