How Do Polar Bears Get Their Food?


The polar bear is the largest predator in its habitat and therefore has no animal enemies to fear.

Polar bears are the species of bear that consume the most meat and are totally carnivorous, with their main source of food being ringed seals.

Polar bears get their food with 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.

Seals are a great 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.

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Polar Bear

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.

Polar bears, in addition to having special teeth to catch and kill their prey, have several ways of catching 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 it can catch its prey.

The polar bear can spend hours waiting for its prey without any luck and can travel many kilometers before finding food.

Polar bears have the ability to 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. It is at this time when they become visible and are vulnerable to polar bears.

Seals spend most of their time underwater under deep layers of ice, and this makes them difficult for the polar bear to locate. Seals use holes in the ice to the surface and breathe.

Waiting Technique

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 wait.

The polar bear chooses between the different holes through which the seal will breathe.

The polar bear has to remain completely still, avoiding sudden movements or scratching the ice, since it can alert the seal.

Polar Bear

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 having to see it.

On average, seals can last about 10 minutes without taking a breath before then they will start looking for a hole in the ice.

The problem for the polar bear is that the seal can have more than 10 hoes through which 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 hole they will react instinctively and burst it.

When this happens the seal must quickly search for another vent in the ice, however, if he cannot find one when he is about to run out of the air, he will return to the vent where he tried to trick the bear.

Stalking Technique

A polar bear’s legs allow it to swim long distances. With its layers of thermal protection including body fat, this allows the polar bear to conserve the heat inside and adapt to very low temperatures.

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 notices that its 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 the blocks of ice to rest. If the seal detects the bear while watching it, but notices that it is at a great distance, 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 with which to grab prey so that it doesn’t escape. They use their claws whether it’s waiting for its prey to breathe in an ice vent or viewing it from afar and cautiously approaching.

The polar bear is an explorer who undertakes long walks in search of finding prey that can satisfy their hunger.

They can walk for miles, under strong winds that even dull the sound of its prey. The bear can walk for days without seeing traces of prey and without hearing anything to alert its attention.

The sound of breathing from a seal or from a predator can awaken them 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 very limited for polar bears as the ice disappears before their feet and with it their hunting territory.

 Seals have a wide sea for swimming and the polar bear will simply watch them from afar, without having access to them.

In the summer the polar bear has to take advantage of anything to eat to survive including vegetables or eggs.

How Much Do Polar Bears Eat In A Day?

On average a polar bear could 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 actually 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 have to 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 must eat vegetables that provide it with energy and nutrients.

In summer the polar bear can feed several times in a day if they are lucky to find food remains. However, the summer conditions will not allow them to find enough nutrients since their favorite food, 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, in order for its body to produce enough fat to survive each year. But this is a minimum minimal amount as 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, so it must be constantly renewing it so as not to draw on its energy reserves. A polar bear must hunt about six seals a month, which is equivalent to 1.20 meals a week.

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References:

https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears/hunting-predators/

https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/diet/

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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