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Can Bears Swim?



Bears CAN swim.

More Info: All species of bears can swim fairly comfortably, but some species are better than others.  Bears often swim to cool off or even to chase prey.  Many species of bear eat fish as a primary source of food, but they do not swim and dive to catch them, opting instead to stand in streams and shallow rivers and claw fish out of the water.  Because of their thick fur, bears can survive in icy waters that other mammals would not be able to tolerate.

Black Bears

Black bears can swim at least a mile and a half in fresh water, and one was recorded swimming more than nine miles in the Gulf of Mexico .  Their average swimming speed is three to five miles per hour, which is considerably less than that of mammals that are considered strong swimmers.

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears have been reported swimming in lakes in natural parks.  In Montana, a young female grizzly bear that was fitted with a tracking collar made several swimming trips across lakes.  Her longest swim took between eight and twelve hours and spanned about seven miles.

Polar Bears

Polar bears are by far the strongest swimmers among bears.  They swim to travel and to hunt prey.  In a study in Alaska, 52 polar bears were fitted with satellite collars, and researchers observed 50 long-distance swims with an average distance of 96 miles (c/). The bears generally did not rest or pause to eat. Some of the female polar bears had cups, which were also observed making longer swims.  The changes in arctic sea levels are making swimming necessary for some polar bear populations, and scientists do not know how that will affect their health or survival rate.  Swimming is tiring for all species of bears, including polar bears.



“Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Bears – Denali National Park & Preserve.” U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

“Swimming grizzly makes lengthy trips across Flathead Lake.” The Billings Gazette – Montana & Wyoming News. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

“North American Bear Center – Senses & Abilities.” North American Bear Center – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <>.


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