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How Do Polar Bears Stay Warm? (What You Need to Know)

Polar bears stay warm mainly because of their fur. They have thick fur, which is also water-repellent, meaning they don’t get wet and cold when swimming. They can survive temperatures as low as -50°F (-45°C).

Polar bears are majestic creatures. They’re the largest predators on land, and they live in the harshest environments on earth: The arctics.

But how do polar bears keep warm? 

In this article, we will discuss how polar bear fur helps them to stay warm, what other methods they use to keep warm, and some of the challenges that they face living in cold environments.

How Do Polar Bears Stay Warm?

Polar bears primarily stay warm due to their fur and a thick layer of blubber. They have a very large fur coat, which helps protect them from the cold.

There are three reasons why polar bears don’t get cold:

  • Their fur
  • Their fat
  • They’re warm-blooded

Polar bears have a thick layer of fur that helps to keep them warm in the cold climates they inhabit. They also have a dense layer of subcutaneous fat (blubber) which helps to insulate their bodies from the cold. 

Additionally, they possess an impressive ability to change their metabolism.[1]

By doing all of these things, polar bears are able to stay warm and survive in some of the coldest environments on Earth.

group of polar bears walking on the snow

Polar Bears Are Warm-Blooded

Polar bears are warm-blooded, meaning that they have a constant body temperature[2]. This is important for their survival because it allows them to stay warm in cold environments. 

Humans are also warm-blooded. When we’re somewhere hot, our bodies will start sweating to reduce our internal temperature. When we’re in a cold environment, our bodies will start shivering to produce heat.

They need this ability to hunt and survive in the Arctic, where temperatures can be as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius). 

Related: What makes bears mammals?

Polar Bears Keep Warm With Their Large Fur Coats

Polar bears have a thick layer of fur that helps keep them warm in cold climates[3]. Their fur is so thick, in fact, that it can make them look a bit overweight. 

This fur coat helps to insulate the bear’s body from the cold air and water. The bear’s fur consists of two layers.

Long guard hairs make up the first layer. These are the bear’s longest and coarsest hair, therefore they resemble human hair more than others. 

The second layer consists mostly of underfur, which covers all over its skin (except for the top of its head where there’s no hair at all). 

Their fur helps keep them insulated against extreme heat or cold by trapping air inside their hollow fibers. They also rely on thick layers of blubber beneath their skin. The thick layer of fat keeps these animals buoyant in freezing water too.

Polar bear on ice floe

How Do Polar Bears Stay Warm in Icy Water?

Polar bears can stay warm in icy water because their fur is hydrophobic. Their fur doesn’t actually get wet, which keeps the cold at bay. Their blubber and thick fur also help contain conserve the heat.

Polar bears’ thick fur keeps them warm in all conditions, even in water. This is due to its hydrophobic nature, meaning it acts as a water-repellent.

The fur traps air next to the skin, keeping them warm. 

Polar bears can stay submerged in frigid water for up to two minutes without getting cold.

This remarkable ability to survive in freezing water comes in handy when they are hunting seals; polar bears often swim long distances underwater to get close to their prey. 

Water-Repellant Fur Coats

Polar bears have water-repellent fur. Their fur coats are covered in oils, which keep them water-repellent, meaning they don’t really get wet.[4]

The hairs of a polar bear’s fur are hollow, and they are transparent. They reflect light and keep heat in. The water-repellent quality keeps them dry when hunting for food in the sea.

It also decreases heat loss to the chilly air. When exposed to extreme cold weather conditions for extended periods of time, like during the winter or ice fishing, their fur does not get wet like human hair because it contains unique oils that repel water rather than absorb it.

Polar bear on water

How Low Temperature Can Polar Bears Withstand?

Polar bears can withstand temperatures as low as -50° Fahrenheit (-45° Celcius).

Polar bears are specially adapted to endure cold weather because of their fur, which ranges in color from white to dark brown. 

For an average adult bear, the coat can weigh up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds), making it the thickest among all air-breathing mammals. The long guard hairs keep warmth trapped close to the body and provide insulation.

This large fur coat, and its large fat deposits, can keep them warm in temperatures as low as -50° Fahrenheit (-45° Celcius).

Do Polar Bears Ever Get Cold?

No, polar bears don’t get cold. They have a thick layer of fur that helps keep them warm. They have a lot of body fat, which acts as insulation. And they live in an environment where it’s always cold, so they’re used to the temperature.

Even when it’s really cold outside, polar bears don’t usually get cold. 

In fact, sometimes they can even overheat. That’s why you might see them lying in the snow with their tongue hanging out there trying to cool down.

polar bear lying on the snow

Polar Bears Migrate in the Winter

Polar bears migrate, contrary to other bears that hibernate. This is due to the movement of ice packs.

Even though polar bears’ fur helps keep them warm in the coldest climates, they do migrate. This is partly due to temperatures, but also due to the movement of the ice.

Ice packs move seasonally. In the spring, they move northward, and when fall comes around they advance southward. Hence, polar bears move to correspond to the movement of ice packs.

They are able to walk long distances over sea ice without breaking through, due to their large paws that distribute their weight evenly. Their fur also acts as camouflage against the snow and ice.

Related: Do Bears Migrate in the Winter?

a polar bear group walking in the snow

Why Do Polar Bears Have White Fur?

Polar bears have white fur due to natural adaptations. It allows them to stay hidden in the snow, as it works as camouflage.

Most people know that polar bears are white. But why is that?

Their white fur helps camouflage them in the snow and ice. It also helps them appear bigger and more frightening to their prey. 

Polar bears are the world’s largest land predators, and their white fur blends in perfectly with the snow. Hence, they can easier catch prey.

Finally, polar bears’ white fur protects them from the sun’s UV rays. Polar bears need protection from the strong sunlight of the Arctic. Their white fur helps by reflecting UV light away from their bodies.

Conclusion

Polar bears have a thick layer of fur that helps to keep them warm in cold climates. Their fur is so effective at trapping heat that it can actually make polar bears too hot if they are active and exposed to the sun for too long. 

Additionally, polar bears are warm-blooded, meaning their body regulates their temperature according to external conditions.

Lastly, they have large fat deposits, which again helps them conserve more heat.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.