Polar Bear Facts > What Do Polar Bears Eat?

What do polar bears eat? Polar bears are in the order of Carnivora, or carnivores, which are mammals that eat meat.

Although, like almost all bears, polar bears are scavengers and will eat a wide variety of foods, both plant and animal, their main source of sustenance are seals. The two main seal species in their range are the ringed and bearded seals, and the bears depend upon sea ice to enable them to hunt the seals. Seals breed during the winter months and it is at the dens and air holes in the sea ice that polar bears have the most luck in locating and catching seals.

Polar bear adaptations to the northern polar environment has produced a number of features not found in other bears. For example, their diet is far more carnivorous than other bear species, though like other bears, they are opportunistic scavengers and will eat some plant-based foods on occasion. However, because of the lack of suitable edible vegetation in the Arctic, polar bears by necessity must eat animals. And contrary to popular opinion, their preferred part of seals is not the meat, or muscle tissue, but rather the fat.

Because of the extreme cold and the very short prime hunting season (November to July, depending on latitude), the bears must consume as many calories as possible. Since fat has the highest caloric density of any of an animal’s tissues, fat is what’s for dinner most mealtimes!

Read about other polar bear adaptations.

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For one of the best works on polar bear adaptations and evolution, read Canadian polar bear researcher Dr. Ian Stirling’s book Polar Bears. You can find the book on Amazon – clicking on the link below will open in a new window.

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