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While they are rare north of 88°, there is evidence that they range all the way across the Arctic, and as far south as James Bay in Canada.

Their southernmost range is near the boundary between the subarctic and humid continental climate zones.

However, the two species have mated intermittently for all that time, most likely coming into contact with each other during warming periods, when polar bears were driven onto land and brown bears migrated northward.

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The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a hypercarnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses.

It is a large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi).

Because of their dependence on the sea ice, polar bears are classified as marine mammals.

For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of circumpolar peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures.

They can occasionally drift widely with the sea ice, and there have been anecdotal sightings as far south as Berlevåg on the Norwegian mainland and the Kuril Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk.

It is difficult to estimate a global population of polar bears as much of the range has been poorly studied; however, biologists use a working estimate of about 20–25,000 or 22–31,000 polar bears has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice and open water, and for hunting seals, which make up most of its diet.Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time on the sea ice.Modern methods of tracking polar bear populations have been implemented only since the mid-1980s, and are expensive to perform consistently over a large area.In Nunavut, some Inuit have reported increases in bear sightings around human settlements in recent years, leading to a belief that populations are increasing.The claws are deeply scooped on the underside to assist in digging in the ice of the natural habitat.

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