The Polar Bear

A symbol of the Arctic

The polar bear is the world's largest land-based predator, and is thus larger than other species of bear. Its fascinating strength has made it a popular symbol of strength in the Arctic world, and the Government of Greenland uses the polar bear in the official national coat of arms.

Polar bears around Greenland

In Greenland the polar bear lives and breeds in the northernmost parts of West Greenland and in Northeast Greenland, but is also occasionally seen elsewhere in Greenland, as it moves with the drifting ice. However, it is extremely rare for either local inhabitants or tourists to see a living polar bear. The chances of seeing a polar bear are greatest when sailing by ship along the coast. They are relatively easy to spot due to their off-white fur, which is clearly distinguishable against the pack ice or the landscape.

Great utility value

The Greenlandic polar bear may only be hunted in quite special circumstances, but when an animal is killed there is - as with all other animals captured in Greenland - a tradition for utilising the whole animal. For example, the meat is eaten, the skull is used as a trophy, the claws as jewellery and the hide for trousers or kamik.

Environmental pollution is threatening the bear

The polar bear is not threatened by hunting, but rather by environmental pollution. So-called POPs (persistent organic pollutants) have been discovered in very high concentrations in polar bears from East Greenland and Svalbard. This has led to concern about the polar bear's ability to reproduce. At the same time the effects of global warming mean that the Arctic ice is melting, thereby further reducing the polar bear's natural habitat.

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