The polar bear is the largest predator in its habitat and has no animal enemies to fear. Polar bears catch their food in different ways, and in this article, I look at the techniques they use.
Polar bears get their food through different hunting techniques. They stay close to holes in the ice and wait for seals to breathe before grabbing them. They also use a stealth technique to sneak up on seals from behind.
Polar bears consume the most meat out of all bear species and are carnivorous, with their primary source of food being ringed seals. Seals are an excellent food for polar bears because they are rich in fat and provide them with several days’ worth of food and energy. Polar bears get plenty of nutrients from the seal fat.
An average seal can be more than one hundred thousand calories. As a polar bear can measure around 2.5 meters in height and weigh 500 kilos, these bears need to consume an average of sixteen thousand calories daily. For this reason, polar bears require at least 2 kg of fat per day to stay healthy.
In addition to having unique teeth to catch and kill their prey, Polar bears have several ways of hunting seals. Polar bears, although large, can be incredibly quiet and have great patience, waiting for the perfect time to attack. However, the polar bear may make many attempts before catching its prey.
The polar bear can spend hours waiting for its prey without luck and travel many kilometers before finding food. Polar bears can catch their prey both on land and in the water but prefer to hunt on land.
How Do Polar Bears Catch Their Prey?
Seals spend 90% of their day underwater. However, ringed seals are mammals and have to breathe. At this time, they become visible and are vulnerable to polar bears.
Seals spend most of their time underwater under deep layers of ice, making it difficult for the polar bear to locate. Seals use holes in the ice to the surface and breathe.
One of the bear’s most effective techniques for catching a seal is waiting for it to breathe right into the hole where the polar bear has decided to stay.
The polar bear chooses between the different holes the seal will breathe through. The polar bear must remain completely still, avoiding sudden movements or scratching the ice since it can alert the seal.
The bear can transmit vibrations with its movements towards the ice and the water. The seals’ whiskers have nerve fibers that allow them to realize that a bear is close without seeing it. On average, seals can last about 10 minutes without taking a breath before they start looking for a hole in the ice.
The polar bear’s problem is that the seal can have more than ten holes to breathe within a radius of two square kilometers.
If the bear is positioned by the correct hole, then they have the perfect opportunity to make the attack. The bear has about 70 thousandths of a second to react when they see or hear that the seal has come out to breathe.
With this technique, the seals have evolved a strategy not to be caught. It is evident that the bear’s reaction is very fast when it is already on the surface, and the seal has very little chance of getting away. Therefore, the seal will sometimes launch an air bubble up through the hole. If there is a bear at the spot, the polar bear will react instinctively and burst it.
When this happens, the seal must quickly search for another vent in the ice; however, if it cannot find one when it is about to run out of air, it will return to the vent where he tried to trick the bear.
A polar bear’s legs allow it to swim long distances. The polar bear can conserve its heat and adapt to low temperatures with its thermal protection layers, including body fat.
This ability allows the bear to be patient, waiting, and observing its prey from a distance before approaching it silently.
The bear tries to approach without the seal noticing and waits to attack when it is close enough. Polar bears can wait until it detects that their prey is paying attention elsewhere.
The polar bear can wade through the waters, camouflaging itself between the ice sheets. Its distinctive white color allows it to sneak up on a seal.
This type of hunting is possible when the seal decides to perch on ice blocks to rest. If the seal detects the bear while watching it but notices that it is far away, it may remain in the same place. However, what happens is that the bear disappears between the ice and the water, reemerging closer to the seal. This hunting technique is not always successful as seals are also very fast.
How Do Polar Bears Get Their Food?
Polar bears have incredible claws to grab prey so that it doesn’t escape. They use their claws, waiting for their target to breathe in an ice vent or viewing it from afar and cautiously approaching.
The polar bear is an explorer who undertakes long walks to find prey that can satisfy its hunger.
They can walk for miles under strong winds that even dull the sound of their prey. The bear can walk for days without seeing prey traces and hearing anything to alert their attention. The sound of breathing from a seal can get their attention and make them aware.
Polar bears are solitary animals. There is not enough food for them to be in groups or as a couple sharing their food unless they are in mating season.
However, female bears will look for a place when they give birth, and the mother will feed them when born.
In summer, the chances of finding seals and food are limited for polar bears as the ice disappears before their feet and their hunting territory. Seals have a vast sea for swimming, and the polar bear will watch them from afar without having access to them. In the summer, polar bears have to take advantage of food such as vegetables or eggs.
How Much Do Polar Bears Eat In A Day?
A polar bear can eat about 30 kilos of food a day. Newborn polar bears eat much less and would be able to eat about 1 kilo a day. Polar bears can lose thousands of calories a day. However, feeding on a seal will give the bear far more calories than it needs in a day.
Polar bears do not need to feed daily in the wintertime but will worry about finding prey within a week. The fat of a single seal is enough for a bear to survive a week; however, if it does not get food after this time, it will begin to draw on its internal reserves and weaken.
When the summer period arrives, the polar bear will begin to use its fat reserves and eat vegetables that provide energy and nutrients. In summer, the polar bear can feed several times a day if they are lucky to find food remains. However, the summer conditions will not allow them to find enough nutrients since seals will be practically out of reach.
How Many Seals Does A Polar Bear Eat?
On average, the polar bear needs to eat a seal every five to six days for its body to produce enough fat to survive each year. This is a minimum amount, and if they are lucky to get more food, they will feed more frequently.
The fat produced by the polar bear becomes one of its main protective layers against the cold. Polar bears must constantly build up their fat to not draw on their energy reserves. A polar bear must hunt about six seals a month, equivalent to one and a quarter meals a week.