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polar bear on ice

Polar Bear Q&A of the Day: Can polar bears swim?

Polar Bear experts are on hand during Polar Bear Cam season to weigh in on your frequently asked questions!

Today’s Question: Can polar bears swim?

The polar bear’s Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means sea or marine bear and refers to the fact they live most of their lives on the surface of the frozen ocean rather than on land. More important, they are considered marine mammals because they depend upon catching marine prey, like seals, to make a living. While polar bears are strong swimmers, they cannot effectively hunt in open water.

“Polar bears are strong swimmers and divers, an adaptation that allows them to swim from one ice floe to the next,” said Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, Polar Bears International’s chief scientist and vice president of conservation science. “Under the right circumstances, they can swim incredible distances, and one bear was recorded swimming over 400 miles without a rest. Other bears, however, have been known to drown when swimming long distances in rough waters, and increased need to swim means increased risks.”

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