WWF Polar Bear Tracker. Photo: Georg Bangjord.
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Polar Bear Diet

A healthy diet for polar bears consists of about 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of fat per day. Ringed seals, with their high body fat content, are the polar bear's primary prey. They are a particularly energy-rich food source, especially for hungry mothers and their growing cubs.

Polar bears can devour huge amounts of fat when prey is abundant. The largest proportion of a polar bear's annual caloric intake occurs between late April and mid-July. Food availability during this period is critical for maintaining the proper body weight to survive the ice-free season. Polar bears fast during the ice-free season, which can last three or four months.

Seals are often caught at the breathing holes they make in the ice. Polar bears creep next to a breathing hole and stay completely still, lying on their stomach and chest with their chin on the ice, waiting patiently for a seal to appear. They often wait several hours before they are successful.

Bears also hunt bearded and harp seals. When seals are not available they will prey upon young walrus and beluga whale, narwhal, fish, and seabirds and their eggs. Near human settlements, polar bears forage for food in garbage dumps.
Polar bear sniffing the air. Photo: Georg Bangjord.

A superb sense of smell guides
polar bears to food sources.

Two polar bears eating a fresh kill. Photo: Georg Bangjord.

Polar bears typically eat only the fat of their kill.

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