Endangered Beauties: Images of Polar Bears

Landlocked Polar Bear

(Image credit: Mark Maftei, Wildlife Conservation Society)

The polar bear near the scientists' campsite off the Beaufort Sea. Polar bears have become increasingly confined to land as Arctic sea ice melts.

Mama bear and cubs

Global Warming May Kill Polar Bears, Scientist

Polar Bear

(Image credit: Robert Rockwell)

Polar bear on the Cape Churchill Peninsula of western Hudson Bay.

Baby polar bear

World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals

Polar bear cubs

(Image credit: Dreamstime)

Though they are cuddly creatures when young, polar bear babies grow up to be ferocious predators. They are controversial zoo inhabitants, as many conservationists argue that it's unnatural to breed these violent bears in zoos, rather than in their natural habitat. However, that habitat is swiftly disappearing as the polar bear's home –the arctic ice – is diminishing rapidly due to climate change.

Knut at the zoo

Knut at the Berlin Zoo

(Image credit: Berlin Zoo)

Knut at the Berlin Zoo.

Getting older

Knut at the Berlin Zoo

(Image credit: Berlin Zoo)

The Berlin Zoo's beloved polar Bear Knut, whose antics and cute demeanor charmed the world, died unexpectedly over the weekend, on March 19.

What Big Paws You Have

Polar bear paws

(Image credit: Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps)

A researcher examines the paws of a sedated polar bear in this 1982 photograph taken in Alaska. Polar bears' giant paw pads help them keep traction on ice and snow.

Polar Bear

polar bear, arctic,

(Image credit: Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com)

A polar bear sniffs at the camera

Polar-grizzly hybrid

polar bear, arctic, alaska, brown bear, grizzly, hybrid, prizzle, grolar,

(Image credit: Wikimedia commons user Messybeast)

Also known as the "grolar" or "prizzly" bear, this is a stuffed polar-grizzly hybrid at the Rothschild Museum in Tring, England

Polar Bears Forced to Land and Water

(Image credit: USGS)

Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding and denning. The bears wait for seals to pop up through breathing holes in the ice, but since the ice is melting earlier and earlier in the year, polar bears are shifting their habitat to land and water, and may be missing out on hunting opportunities.

Jennifer Welsh

Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor and a regular contributor to Live Science. She also has several years of bench work in cancer research and anti-viral drug discovery under her belt. She has previously written for Science News, VerywellHealth, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, WIRED Science, and Business Insider.