And the answer: Canada.
About 60% of the world’s polar bears live in Canada’s Arctic and Subarctic regions, including Nunavut. The indigenous Inuit Nunangat have co-existed with polar bears for thousands of years. The Inuit revere polar bears as master hunters, and their native word for the white beasts is “nanuq.”
Canada is home to so many bears annually that it even has a region lovingly called the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”—or Churchill, Manitoba, as it’s more formally known. Each fall, nearly as many polar bears pass through Churchill as there are residents, and while just 900 people in a town doesn’t seem very big, 900 bears is a completely different story. While Churchill is an extreme example of the breadth of bears which call Canada home, it’s not an uncommon one. Polar bears can be found across Canada’s northern territories and are a central part of traditional northern culture. Canada is also home to the southernmost polar bear subpopulation, where they can be found as far south as the Southern parts of Hudson Bay, in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Polar bears are not only some of the most gorgeous, graceful creatures of the Arctic, but they are also truly impressive creatures with unique evolutionary features. Polar bears are the largest carnivores on Earth, and sit at the top of the Arctic food chain. Makes sense, considering a male polar bear can weigh as much as 1,764 pounds, and measure up to nearly ten feet long! Their heavily furred feet can be as wide as 12 inches—roughly the size of a dinner plate—to help spread their weight over the ice. Polar bears also have thick, sharp claws that are curved for a good grip on slick ice (and to catch those ever-so slippery seals.)
Did you know?
This week, October 30 to November 6, is Polar Bear Week! Coinciding with the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba, Polar Bear Week is intended to celebrate the majesty of the species and focus on the importance of ensuring their survival. The environmental instability set in motion by climate change continues to melt precious Arctic sea ice—the primary habitat of polar bears—and threaten polar bear populations across the world. The creation of Polar Bear Week as a holiday strives to begin discussions on polar bear conversation, everyday energy-spending habits, and long term solutions to help polar bears thrive for generations to come.
Learn more about Polar Bear Week and how to get involved here.