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

When is International Polar Bear Day? Here's everything you need to know about the holiday, which honors moms and cubs — half of whom don't make it to adulthood.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Feb. 24 2023, Published 11:19 a.m. ET

International Polar Bear Day
Source: Dmytro Cherkasov

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 this year!

When is International Polar Bear Day 2023?

Mother and Cub Polar Bears
Source: Steven C. Amstrup

This year, International Polar Bear Day falls on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, marking the 18th 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 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 states. "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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As a spokesperson for PBI tells Green Matters in an email, in honor of the holiday, PBI scientists are conducting maternal den studies in Svalbard, Norway, and working to develop new den-detection radar, which will help protect dens safe from disturbances from the fossil fuel industry.

Polar Bear Family
Source: Steven C. Amstrup
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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.

You can also watch the three short films PBI is supporting for the holiday.

On Feb. 22, Day in the Life of BJ premiered, showing PBI "tech guru" BJ Kirschhoffer attempting to use radar technology to pinpoint polar bear den locations.

On Feb. 24, PBI is debuting Day in the Life of Joanna, which tracks Svalbard-based biologist Joanna Sulichsetting up cameras in subzero mountain terrain.

And then There's Violet, a short film dropping on Feb. 27, which follows a polar bear mom and her cubs traveling through Svalbard, Norway.

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And on Feb. 27, PBI is hosting two Facebook Lives. One is a Q&A with scientist Dr. Thea Bechshoft about polar bear moms and their cubs, airing at 12 p.m. ET. Then at 2 p.m. ET, "Live from Svalbard!" will feature the PBI research team chatting about the PBI’s Maternal Den Study and what it's like in the field.

Info on all of the above events can be found here.

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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 Polar Bears International, said in a statement shared with Green Matters. “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.

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