American Oceans
Large male polar bear covered in blood after feeding on a seal

What Do Polar Bears Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Their Diet

One of the most famous Arctic species is the polar bear. They have a reputation for being extremely strong, having thick fur, and being able to endure one of the harshest environments on Earth.

Large male polar bear covered in blood after feeding on a seal

What do polar bears eat, though? This issue has long piqued the interest of both scientists and animal lovers.

The solution is more complicated than you may imagine. Despite being mostly carnivores, polar bears’ diets can change based on their environment and the food that is available.

They hunt seals, which they primarily consume, by waiting for them to surface through openings in the ice. But they are also known to consume a wide range of other creatures, such as fish, birds, and even small rodents.

They have occasionally been observed scavenging from human settlements and consuming trash and other rubbish.

What Do Polar Bears Consume?

Polar bears are carnivorous predators that mainly feed on seals.

Female Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) with two cubs hunting dragging a dead ringed seal
Female Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) dragging a dead ringed seal

Their diet primarily consists of ringed and bearded seals, but depending on their location, they may also eat harp, hooded, and ribbon seals.

Diet of Polar Bears

For polar bears to thrive in the cold Arctic environment, they need a lot of energy.

A 121-pound seal can supply enough energy for 8 days, but polar bears need to consume significantly more food to build up their reserves. They can devour up to three to five seals a week and up to 88 pounds of food in a single meal.

In order to survive, polar bears must eat a diet rich in protein and fat. To help them survive when food is in short supply, they store fat reserves in their bodies. Their body weight also has an impact on their hunger. Less food is required as they gain weight.

Hunting Techniques of Polar Bears

Polar bears use their excellent sense of smell to locate seals on the ice.

White bear feeding on drift ice with snow

They wait patiently by breathing holes or cracks in the ice where seals come up to breathe. Once they spot a seal, they use their powerful front paws to break the ice and grab the seal with their sharp claws.

Polar bears can also hunt by scavenging on carcasses of whales or other animals. They have been known to scavenge on human garbage near settlements.

Other Food Sources for Polar Bears

When other food is unavailable, polar bears will eat just about any animal they can get, including reindeer, small rodents, seabirds, waterfowl, fish, eggs, vegetation (including kelp), and berries.

They have also been known to eat beluga whales, walruses, and bearded seals.

Polar bears have a slow metabolism and can survive for long periods without food. They have adapted to the Arctic environment by having a thick layer of blubber for insulation and the ability to slow down their digestion.

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