Can Bears Swim? (Explained)

Can bears swim?

We all may know bears are excellent runners, stronger than most, and good climbers – but can they swim? In this article, I will go through different types of bears and answer whether they can swim or prefer staying on land.

Bears can swim, and they do it pretty well. All bears are able to swim, and they can swim at 6mph, which is three times faster than the average human. Polar bears regularly swim over 30 miles at a time. However, how far other bear species swim is unsure.

Bear cubs start swimming without help when they reach 30lbs, approximately when they are six months old. The secret behind the bear’s ability to swim is the amount of fat that keeps them afloat, as well as the strong legs they use to “dog paddle.”

Can bears swim?

Bears are excellent swimmers, as they are taught this early by their parents. They swim in the same way dogs swim by paddling their front paws and pushing away with their hind legs. Although they swim much more quickly than dogs. Dogs and humans swim between 1-2mph, while bears can swim at 6mph. Their strong muscles also make it easier for them to swim against the stream. The amount of body fat also helps to keep the bears afloat. Make sure that different bear species are better swimmers than others. The best swimmer of all bear species is the Polar bear since they spend the most time in the water. They swim much further than their relatives, whereas other species swim in order to cool down, catch fish, and other things to eat.

It has been uncovered that polar bears were forced due to climate change to move. The observation was made in the Beaufort Sea, where a polar bear was seen swimming continuously for nine days for 427 miles (687km) without resting. Researchers who had followed this polar bear for two months prior by using a GPS necklace noticed the bear had lost 20% of her body weight (106lbs) (48kg), but also her cub, who didn’t have the strength that far journey.

Polar bear swimming

Can bears swim underwater?

Bears can swim underwater – especially the polar bear. Considered the polar is classified as a marine animal; they are the best among the bears swimming underwater.

Polar bears usually dive to 3-4.5 m (9.8-14.8 ft.) and can be submerged for about 1 minute. They do this looking for fish and other things to eat.

Other bear species don’t find it particularly necessary to swim underwater. When they look for salmon, they are usually in shallow waters upstream. However, they do like to bathe and swim underwater in order to cool down, while polar bears tend to use swimming as an alternative to walking.

How far can bears swim?

It hasn’t been studied how far all bears are able to swim. However, polar bears have been documented swimming 30 miles multiple times. For other bears, it isn’t necessary to travel far. They usually catch their fish in shallow streams and only soak themselves on hot days. Polar bears instead use water as a way of transporting themselves, while other bears tend to prefer walking. When bear cubs grow older and leave their home and their mom, they usually walk at least 75 miles (120km) from where they were born to start a life and family of their own. It’s, however, not told whether they swim any of that distance.

Bear cooling down in the water

Should I jump into the water if a bear is attacking?

It’s not recommended to run if a bear is preparing to charge you. Sometimes bears fake a charge in order to see if you stand your ground. If they see you flee, they will chase after you. The best thing is to make yourself as big, menacing, and loud as possible in order to scare off the bear. Jumping into water is not a good thing to do. Bears will chase you, and their strength and stamina will win against you on any given day. Read the other article on why bears attack humans here.

Can bear cubs swim?

Young bear cubs are not usually able to swim. At least not by themselves. At a young age they haven’t developed enough muscles to be able to swim forward and hardly enough to stay afloat. When they grow older, they usually swim with their mom, who helps them if they struggle. The mom also lets her cubs practice and gives them obstacles. Almost like how humans do it. With time they increase the length they are able to swim.

Bear mom and her cub swimming

Is it common to see two bears swimming together?

It’s pretty rare to see a bear swimming, and it’s extremely rare to see two or more bears swimming together. Bears usually don’t swim together, but if they do, they have a close relationship with each other. Often they are mates or a cub and a parent. The exception would be if there were a forest fire they were trying to escape from.

Two bears playing in the water

Do bears rest when they swim?

In the same way, humans get fatigued when we are swimming, and so do bears. Bears carry a lot more weight than us. They have much more muscle and fat than humans, requiring more energy to progress forward while swimming. If bears swim in a lake, they keep an eye out for islets to rest on. Here they gather energy in order to return to the water.

Why do bears swim?

During summer, bears enjoy cooling down in a lake or pond to escape the heat of the sun. Their thick fur and heavy bodies make the warm pretty intolerable for them, and some cool water is perfect for them.

Bears can also be found swimming in the fall when they prepare for hibernation. During hibernation, they need a lot of weight and fat in order to stay inside during the winter. They usually eat a lot of fish which is high in fat. They wander and look for schools of fish to jump into or other larger concentrations of fish.


I'm an animal lover who managed to learn multiple ways to help animals throughout the years. Through this site, I will be sharing my experiences, knowledge, and everything I've learned.

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