Can Polar Bears Climb Trees?

Polar bears are one of the strongest animals to exist on our planet. Not only do they have extremely tough skin and long, sharp claws, they are also apex predators meaning they hunt all animals and are never hunted. You may be wondering what other capabilities they have. In this article, we will be discussing a polar bear’s ability to climb trees as well as other talents a bear may or may not possess.

Polar bears are actually the only member of the bear family that cannot climb trees. However, just because they can’t climb trees doesn’t mean they aren;t capable of climbing high and steep terrain within their environment. 

Let’s delve further into why it is that polar bears, in particular, cannot climb trees like other bears. 

Why Can’t Polar Bears Climb Trees?

There are many reasons for why polar bears specifically cannot climb trees. Let’s explore!

Body Weight and Size

Polar bears are incredibly enormous animals. Let’s look at some facts and figures. The largest male polar bears weigh 1700 lbs or more. However, an average male would weigh between 600 and 1200 lbs. They are also large in size, recorded as being around 8 to 10 ft tall. Female polar bears weigh between 300 and 700 lbs. They are recorded as being smaller than their male counterparts, roughly around 6 to 8 ft in length. 

Because these animals are heavier and larger than most other animals, they are unable to climb trees as they would be unsupported. 

Paw Anatomy

Climbing a tree would require rounded off, short claws. Both of these qualities are missing in a polar bear’s paw. A polar bear’s paw may resemble that of an American bear’s, for example, but it is not as curved as it could be. Therefore, they are unable to climb trees efficiently or at all. 

Lack of Trees

Polar bears reside in the Arctic regions.they also spend majority of the winters surrounded by ice in the north pole. Both locations have basic vegetation. The most that grows is moss or grass during the summer months. This means that the idea of trees is very foreign to polar bears as none are found where they live. 

Therefore, through evolution and due to where they are located, polar bears do not possess the ability to climb trees. Simply because none are found around them!

They Don’t Need To

As we’ve established previously, polar bears are apex predators. It’s fair to assume we can be sure that no animals will be preying on them. With no predators to hide from, they don’t need to seek shelter or hide. Therefore, they have no use of trees when it comes to protection.

Apart from this, polar bears hunt for animals that are usually found in the water. Animals like penguins or fish all reside within the water and scarcely on land. None of their prey takes to the trees to protect themselves. This also indicates how polar bears don’t climb trees because, well, they don’t need to!

Baby Polar Bears

Things may differ for baby polar bears. A polar bear’s youngling might make use of trees while they’re still young. With their weight and size being minimal, if they sense a threat nearby, they can climb a tree in a flash. Baby polar bears also sometimes require shelter. Therefore, if their mother asks them to hide, they do so under or near trees so they aren’t visible. 

What Bears Can Climb Trees?

Since we have established that polar bears cannot climb trees, you may be wondering which bears can. Let us give you a quick rundown.

Sun Bears

Sun bears are recorded to be the smallest bears in existence weighing between 25 to 65 kg. Their sharp claws allow them to climb trees efficiently and have access to their food source. They mainly feed on beetles, fruits, termites, and honey.

Sloth Bears

Sloth bears are often found hanging from tree branches. They use their perfectly designed claws to relax high up in the trees. This is also where they find most of their meals including termites and other smaller insects. Sloth bears weigh around 55 to 145 kg and climb trees to avoid threats within their environment. 

Brown Bears

There is a wide range of brown bears, otherwise known as grizzlies, all over North America. They weigh well above 135 kg. However, their heaviness in weight does not largely impact their ability to climb trees. Whether this is for food or safety, they do so flawlessly. 

Younger brown bears are able to climb trees even faster than adult brown bears as they are smaller in size and have better speed control as well. They do so to remain hidden from the eyes of predators. 

Black Bears

The American black bear is one of very few bears that solely lives in trees. It also feeds on the animals found in trees. Apart from this, it chooses to hibernate within this atmosphere as well! American black bears are regarded as being the best tree climbing bears so far.

What Can Polar Bears Climb

While polar bears are unable to climb trees, they are considered expert climbers when it comes to terrains. They are able to do so because of their strong claws and immense bodily power to climb terrains as high as 35 feet. They are also able to jump incredible distances, around 10 feet down, without a scratch!


While polar bears are one of the most skilled bears out there, they are notoriously known for not being able to climb trees. This is because their paws, body weight, size, and environment do not allow them to do so. They also don’t need to as they are not being hunted by any animals. They can, however, climb terrains expertly.

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