Polar bear
© Steve Morello / WWF

Polar bear diet

Polar bears are the top predator in the Arctic marine ecosystem.

Because the polar bear's body requires a diet based on large amounts of seal fat, it is the most carnivorous member of the bear family.

Food can be hard to come by for polar bears for much of the year. The bear puts on most of its yearly fat reserves between late April and mid-July to maintain its weight in the lean seasons.

The food-free season can last 3 to 4 months -- or even longer in areas like Canada's Hudson Bay. As the Arctic warms due to climate change, the ice pack is forming later in the season, and bears must wait longer to begin hunting again.

What do polar bears eat?

Did you know?

  • Don't move!
    The polar bear often relies on "still hunting" -- patiently waiting next to a hole in the ice until it senses a surfacing seal.
  • Hunting by smell
    Using its sense of smell, the polar bear will locate seal birth lairs, and then break through the lair's roof in order to catch its prey.
  • Learning to hunt
    The adolescent polar bear often has to scavenge on the carcasses of other bears' kills while learning to develop its own hunting skills.
  • Efficient digestion
    The bear's digestive system absorbs approximately 84% of the protein and 97% of the fat it consumes.
  • Fatty diet
    The average polar bear can consume 2kg (4.4 lbs) of fat in a day.
  • A big appetite
    The bear's enormous stomach can hold 10-20% of its body weight

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