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Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Diet & Feeding

Highly carnivorous

  • Primary food source - Ringed Seals Phoca hispida, especially new-born pups.
    • One seal gives Polar Bear energy for 11 days
    • Occasionally eat bearded seals, harp seals, hooded seals.
    • Walruses, white whales, and narwhals rarely consumed.
  • In summer, if preferred food is unavailable take grass, kelp, berries, small mammals, birds, eggs.
    Usually eats skin and blubber, leaving meat for scavengers.

Energy during harsh conditions

  • Fat-eating adds water to diet in a frozen environment (digesting fat releases water)
  • Consuming large amounts of fat when food is available and metabolizing it when there is nothing to eat = adaptation to life in the Arctic.
  • Often kill more than they can eat, but do not cache food like other bears.
  • Large stomach can hold more than 70 kg (154 lbs) of food

Nutrition

  • Vitamin A content of liver ranges between 15,000 and 30,000 units per gram.
    • Phosphate, lipid and cholesterol contents relatively low.
  • Bear milk is high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrates.
    • Polar Bears have richest milk of all bears
    • 35.8% milk fat when emerge from dens - 20.6% fat with yearlings
    • Sodium content is higher than that of other milks.

Page Citations

Amstrup (2003)
Demaster & Stirling (1981)
Derocher et al (1993)
Derocher et al (2004)
Stirling (1993)

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