Where Polar Bears Live
Range and Population
Since polar bears have many adaptations for survival in cold, artic environments, they are mostly commonly found on coastal area and groups of islands in the Artic region. Therefore, the terrestrial biome that the polar bear inhabits is the Artic tundra. The tundra region is considerably cold much of the year. With these year-round “below-freezing” temperatures, the soil is perpetually frozen. As a result, the tundra region does not have much vegetation. Only grasses, sedges, mosses, lichen, and perennial shrubs can be found in the tundra region. In this tundra region encircling the North Pole, polar bears have been found as far north as 88 degrees (the North Pole is 90 degrees) on the permanent ice pack, and as far South as Newfoundland (Stirling, 2002).
The current world population of the polar bear is around 30,000 (Waytiuk, 2002), with the polar bear population of Canada alone exceeding 15,000 ( Stirling, 2002). One of the three largest maternity denning areas of polar bears is also located in Canada by Churchill, Manitoba (Waytuik, 2002). The other two are located on Wrangel Island, Russia and in Kong Karls Land in Svalbard, Norway. Polar bears can also be found on Greenland, islands off the coast of Norway, the north coast of the former Soviet Union, and the north/northwest coasts of Alaska (Ovsyaniko, 1996).
Polar bears depend on the marine environment at the edge of the pack ice for their food, which consists mainly of seals. As a result, polar bears must migrate according to the thawing of the artic ice. Then in the fall, as temperatures become colder, polar bears migrate south, following the advancing pack ice (Waytiuk, 2002).
The role of the polar bear in this marine environment in the Artic tundra region is that of a secondary consumer. In fact, the polar bear is primarily a top carnivore and the largest non-aquatic predator in the world (Ovsyanikov, 1996). Also, polar bears have virtually no predators (Waytiuk, 2002). However, walruses and wolves have been known to occasionally kill polar bears, but this is very rare ( Stirling, 2002). Earlier, humans were a large threat to polar bears as a predator, but today, due to strict rules against polar bear hunting, humans are not a big threat as predators. In recent years, fewer than 1000 polar bears have been killed per year by hunting (Ovsyanikov, 1996). Also, contrary to common belief, polar bears are not much of a threat to humans. However, polar bears generally run away from humans at first sight (Ovsyanikov, 1996).
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|Page last updated March 17, 2005|