Polar bear foraging behavior




Polar bears forage in the marine environment, primarily on the sea ice over the shallow waters of the continental shelf. They are solitary, ambush hunters that catch ringed and bearded seals when they surface to breathe in ice holes or haul out on the ice to rest and molt. In most parts of their range, polar bears experience dramatic seasonal variability in their ability to catch seals, with foraging success peaking in late spring and early summer when seal pups are weaned. During this time, the body mass of polar bears can nearly double, especially in pregnant females, such that body composition may reach 49% body fat. The accumulation of body fat is vital for these bears to survive through the autumn and winter when seals are less accessible or when pregnant adult female bears enter dens and fast. When the sea ice retreats in summer, some bears exhibit a temporary switch to omnivory, feeding on a variety of terrestrial food. However, the energetic benefit of most terrestrial food is small relative to their marine mammal prey and, in some regions, increased land use has been associated with declines in body condition. Reduced accessibility of seal prey to polar bears as a result of global climate change threatens the long-term sustainability of this Arctic predator.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Polar bear foraging behavior
DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-66796-2_13
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB
Description 21 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Ethology and behavioral ecology of sea otters and polar bears
First page 247
Last page 267
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