Polar bear (Ursus maritimus):
An encounter with a Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) in its own environment is the dream of everyone who visits the Arctic. The polar bear is the very symbol of the northern polar areas, just as penguins are the signature species of Antarctica. The polar bear is reckoned to be the largest land predator in the world, rivalled only by the Alaskan Kodiak bear. The record-holding polar bear was shot in Alaska in 1960 and weighed 1003 kg, but they rarely reach this size. A full-grown polar bear on Svalbard weighs about 500 kg and usually has a maximum life span of 25 years. The oldest
polar bear recorded on Svalbard was a female aged 32. The population there is now estimated at about 1500.
Hunting of polar bears has been prohibited on Svalbard since 1973. Climate changes are starting to create serious problems for the polar bear and researchers are concerned about the recent developments in the Arctic. The absence of summer ice in the polar basin may become a reality in the course of this century. At the same
time the winter period when new ice is formed may become shorter. This will restrict both living areas and the possibility of hunting seal. Seal represents more than 90 per cent of the polar bear