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Polar bear

Ursus maritimus

At the Detroit Zoo

Visitors can watch polar bears gracefully swim above their heads in the Arctic Ring of Life’s 70-foot-long Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage. Female Suka was born in 2012 and arrived at the Detroit Zoo in 2018. She gave birth to twin female cubs, Astra and Laerke, on Nov. 17, 2020. Two days after their births, Laerke appeared weak and stopped moving. Animal care staff provided lifesaving care for months. With the amount of time away, it became clear that returning Laerke to her mother and sister was not an option. Grizzly bear Jebbie was introduced in July 2021 to be a companion for Laerke. Jebbie and Laerke lived together until March 2022. Though the two cubs no longer share a space, Laerke was provided with much-needed socialization during their time together.

Astra lives with her mother, Suka. Both polar bear cubs are thriving and can be seen in the Arctic Ring of Life.

The polar bears’ habitat includes grassy tundra, a freshwater pool, a “pack ice” area and a 190,000-gallon salt water pool. The Arctic Ring of Life is one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats. This state-of-the-art, interactive facility encompasses more than 4 acres of outdoor and indoor habitats and was named the second-best exhibit at any zoo in the U.S. by The Intrepid Traveler’s guide to “America’s Best Zoos.”

Polar bears have dense, thick undercoats protected by outer coats of long, transparent fur. The sun’s reflection from the dark skin through the transparent fur gives the illusion of a white coat. Their waterproof fur will stick together when wet and act as an insulator.

Fun Facts

  • Because it receives liquids from the prey it eats, the polar bear does not have to drink water.

  • The polar bear is a marine mammal and the most carnivorous member of the bear family since its diet heavily relies on seals.

  • A polar bear's blubber helps it float in water and also acts as a nutritional reserve, allowing the bear to go months without eating.

  • The polar bear has the richest milk of any bear species; it contains 35 percent fat.