Being a well known resource of polar bear information, we get a lot of questions sent to us asking for answers about all sorts of polar bear related questions.
The most recent question to reach my inbox was from a young girl in Scotland who asked, ”Can polar bears climb trees?”
No, polar bears can not climb trees. While other types of bears may be known for their ability to climb trees, it is not a skill that polar bears have evolved with, mainly because they are too heavy and there are not many trees in their natural habitat.
Now that you’ve learned that polar bears don’t climb trees you might be wondering why they don’t climb trees. Don’t other types of bears climb trees? Why not a polar bear?
Why Can’t Polar Bears Climb Trees?
While it might seem strange that polar bears can’t climb trees – they’re a type of bear aren’t they? Don’t all bears climb trees? There are two very good reasons why polar bears don’t climb trees.
The first reason is that polar bears are very heavy. They would need a very strong and sturdy tree to be able to support their weight.
I have seen a picture of a polar bear cub climbing a tree. The smaller size and weight of a polar bear cub would make it possible for this to happen but, as a polar bear matures into the large and heavy size of an adult or fully grown polar bear, the ability to climb a tree would be greatly reduced due to their size.
They would also need some very strong muscles to haul themselves up a tree! Polar bears can be strong and muscular but they have not developed muscles they would require for climbing trees for the simple reason that there is no need for them to climb trees.
Which brings us to the next reason why polar bears don’t climb trees. Picture a polar bear’s native habitat. You should be picturing vast plains of snow and ice with no sizable trees in sight.
In the arctic circle, where polar bears naturally live, it is simply not a natural environment for large trees to grow in. So, with a lack of trees to practice climbing, the climbing of trees is not a skill that polar bears have carried with them over the years.
They don’t need to hide from predators or look for food up trees so there is no need for them to climb trees.
Can Other Bears Climb Trees?
While we’ve established that polar bears cannot climb trees, you might be left wondering if other types of bears can actually climb trees. Or is it just a myth that bears can climb trees at all?
Can Brown Bears Climb Trees?
Similarly to polar bears, brown bear cubs can climb trees but, as the bears get older, their size and weight makes climbing trees more difficult to the point where it would be very rare to see an adult brown bear up a tree.
The anatomy of a brown bear also makes climbing a tree difficult in that they have long, sharp claws and fixed wrist joints which would make climbing a tree too difficult for an adult brown bear.
Can Black Bears Climb Trees?
Yes, black bears can climb trees. In fact black bears are considered to be excellent and fast tree climbers. So, a word of advice, if you ever come across a black bear, don’t try to escape from it by climbing up a tree!
Can Grizzly Bears Climb Trees?
Yes, grizzly bears can climb trees but, like polar bears and brown bears, adult grizzly bears are unlikely to do so, mainly because of their size and weight.
Grizzly bear cubs are very agile, interested and capable of climbing trees while fully grown grizzly bears are, technically, capable of climbing trees but will rarely do so due to their size, weight and claws.
Why do Bears Climb Trees?
The main reason that bears climb trees is to help them stay safely away from predators. But they’ll also climb trees to look for food such as fruit, honey and bird eggs, and to rest and play.
Some bears will also climb a tree in order to chase after prey, such as a human trying to get away from them.
So, as mentioned before, don’t climb up a tree if a black bear is chasing you – it’s probably a much better tree climber than you are!
So the short answer is, no, polar bears can’t climb trees. If you’re looking for a bear that can climb trees, the best tree climbing bear is the black bear. For more information on how polar bears are different from other bears click here.