International Polar Bear Day Honors Vulnerable Mamas and Cubs, Who Are Threatened by Climate Change

Here's how you can take part in International Polar Bear Day.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Feb. 23 2024, Updated 3:52 p.m. ET

Pile of three polar bears cuddling in the snow
Source: Dmytro Cherkasov/Polar Bears International

Every November, polar bear lovers celebrate Polar Bear Week, which commemorates the annual polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

But apparently, one week is not enough time to adequately honor these iconic marine mammals, because every February, we also celebrate International Polar Bear Day.

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Keep reading for everything you need to know about International Polar Bear Day, and how you can get involved in the holiday in 2024.

When is International Polar Bear Day 2024?

Mother and cub polar bear in the snow
Source: Steven C. Amstrup/Polar Bears International

This year, International Polar Bear Day falls on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, marking the 19th annual International Polar Bear Day.

The holiday is hosted by Polar Bears International (PBI) — the same polar bear conservation organization that is behind the annual Polar Bear Week.

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International Polar Bear Day creates awareness for protecting polar bear cubs and moms.

PBI started International Polar Bear Day to mark the time of year when polar bear mothers and their cubs "are snug in their dens" across the Arctic, getting ready to emerge in the spring — and to call attention to the struggles that polar bear mamas and their babies face, in large part due to global warming and Arctic drilling.

As explained by PBI, this time in a polar bear cub's life — known as denning — is extremely vulnerable. When baby polar bears are born, they weight about a pound, they cannot see, they are toothless, and they have barely any fur to protect them from the harsh cold. In fact, less than half of polar bear cubs grow into adults, and polar bear populations are rapidly decreasing. The species is currently classified as Vulnerable.

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So to protect cubs, their mothers bring them into a snow den for the winter, and care for their cubs for months on end, until they are strong enough to come out, which is typically shortly after International Polar Bear Day.

"And in a warming Arctic, where polar bears face enormous challenges, the survival of every single cub is critically important," PBI stated. "Keeping moms and cubs safe while also addressing climate warming is a critical part of our work on behalf of polar bears."

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In honor of International Polar Bear Day, every year, PBI's research team visits Svalbard, Norway to conduct maternal den studies. They install "non-invasive" cameras near the dens while the polar bears are hibernating, leaving the cameras to subtly capture the animals coming out of their snow dens come spring.

"The footage allows us to assess the body condition of the moms and cubs," stated Geoff York, PBI's senior director of science and policy. "It also provides information on how families spend their time and how long they remain at the den site before heading to the sea ice to hunt seals."

"Unfortunately, very little is known about polar bear denning behavior — and even less is known about the impacts of human disturbance on denning bears," York added. "This project will help answer those questions, so wildlife managers can better protect moms and cubs."

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Mother polar bear and two small cubs in the snow
Source: Steven C. Amstrup/Polar Bears International

How can we celebrate International Polar Bear Day and protect polar bears?

In honor of International Polar Bear Day, PBI and's Northern Lights Live Cam is now live on YouTube. The cam is streaming from the Churchill Northern Studies Center in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, so make sure to tune in.

PBI also encourages people to spread the word about the ways climate change is hurting polar bears by posting on social media with the hashtags #PolarBearDay, #ProtectMomsAndCubs, #TalkAboutIt, and #WeSupportPolarBears.

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You can also tune into the two livestreams PBI is running for the holiday, both of which will stream on PBI's Facebook page.

On Monday, Feb. 26, at 8 a.m. CT, PBI is livestreaming "Behind the Scenes in Svalbard: Mom and Cub Research." This stream will be hosted by PBI field research team members Joanna Sulich, Geoff York, and Christian Zoelly, on location in Svalbard, Norway.

And on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. CT, you can livestream "Top Mom and Cubs Facts: Q&A with Alysa McCall." She and Kieran McIver will be streaming live from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada for the event.

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“We all want a better future for our children, and this International Polar Bear Day we’re calling on people to come together for a better world for future generations of polar bears and humans alike,” Krista Wright, Executive Director of PBI, said in a statement shared with Green Matters in 2023. “By uniting and taking actions to protect polar bear families, we can help protect the entire Arctic ecosystem, which in turn impacts people around the world.”

To support these polar bear conservation efforts, you may consider donating to PBI or another animal conservation organization — and check out other ways to get involved on PBI's website.

This article, originally published on Feb. 24, 2023, has been updated to reflect International Polar Bear Day 2024.

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