They live in a vast, seemingly barren land of ice, water and snow. There’s not much out there in the arctic that looks as though it would make a good source of food for polar bears.
So, what do polar bears eat? Polar bears’ diet is typically composed of fat-rich marine animals such as seals or walruses that live near coastal areas during summer months.
Unlike other bear species, polar bears are exclusively carnivores – they like to eat meat. Their favorite food seems to be ringed seals, but they are also known to eat bearded seals.
Polar bears hunt for seals by waiting on the sea ice for the seals to come up to the surface to breathe – that’s when they’ll catch them! The polar bear will grab the seal and pull it onto the land to eat it.
Seal pups are also a popular food for polar bears. These baby seals are born and live in dens, found or built by their mothers, in the Arctic ice. Polar bears use their keen sense of smell to find these dens and then they pounce through the roof of the den to capture, and eat, the young seals.
The availability of seal pups in the spring decreases due to the melting of the ice, so the polar bears have to look for another source of food.
Other foods polar bears might eat include walruses and whale carcasses, they’ve also been known to find birds eggs and eat them too, but they’re unlikely to find enough of these to meet their nutritional needs.
While seals are their main prey, polar bears will also eat fish and marine mammals like beluga whales and bowhead whales when the opportunity presents itself.
Polar bears can appear incredibly lazy at times, but they can move over 9 km (5 miles) in a single day to find food. They have also been known to forage for polar ice; however, this is only done at the end of winter when there are few seals.
Researchers believe that polar bears consume between 18 and 24 kg of meat per day, which includes blubber and fat. About 60% of the meat that’s ingested ends up as fat in the bears’ bodies, and another 40% is muscle tissue. The rest is made up of bone, connective tissue, and organs.
Despite their excellent hunting abilities, polar bears must travel over 1,000 km (620 miles) per year to find enough food to survive.
So, if we had to give a one word answer to the question, “What do polar bears eat?” The answer would be “Seals”.
But, the truth is, polar bears are at the top of the food chain in the arctic – they’ll eat just about any other animal if the possibility arises, but, ultimately, their most common food source is seals.