Facts for kids: what do polar bears eat

Fun polar bears facts for kids

Polar bears are a favourite on cute Christmas cards and the stars of a cold drink advert but these magnificent creatures are still a threatened species and even getting close to being endangered. Why?Well, polar bears depend very much on having sea ice to move about and to hunt on and with the ever present threat of global warming, the ice is slowly melting.

An adult male polar bear is big. Standing upright at almost 10foot and weighing up to 700lbs, they can weigh twice as much as a gorilla and 3 times as much as a baby elephant. The females are much smaller and they will weigh about 220lbs.

What do polar bears eat

Polar bears feed mainly on seals, their favourites being the ringed and bearded seals and they hunt these by a method called still hunting. This means that they know where the seals are under the ice and they just wait by a hole, Although seals spend most of their time under the water, just like humans, they need to come up to breathe air and when they do, the polar bear grabs them and pulls them out of the water. The bears are very patient and will wait for over an hour, keeping absolutely still, not to let the seals know they are waiting to pounce.

Another method of hunting is when they stalk seals on the ice and although polar bears are such big animals, they can move very quickly when they need to—and as far as feeding is concerned, they really need to because polar bears eat a lot. How much do polar bears eat? Their stomach can hold 15-20% of their bodyweight and they need at least 2kg of fat every day. They must build up their food reserves because when they hibernate, they don’t eat anything for months.

Sometimes, the seals are too quick for the bears and so they have to find something else to eat. They will scavenge on carcasses of other animals such as whales, walrushes and if all else fails, they will eat just about anything, including birds,fish,berries and in some places where they are near to civilisation, they have even been known to go through rubbish bins and eat what we humans have thrown out—imagine a polar bear looking in your bin for that left over pizza!!

White polar bear on snow

Where do polar bears live

As you would know, polar bears live where it is cold—you would not find them in the jungle –and they mostly live throughout the Arctic. They move from place to place on the floating pieces of sea ice and mostly stay close to the water. Sometimes though, they will go inland and one was found to have travelled 250miles inland-that’s a long way from the ice. Usually though, they travel on the ice and can travel about 19miles per day, looking for food and shelter. Sometimes scientists doing research into polar bears will catch them, without hurting them and put radio collars on them to track where they do go in an effort to try and help protect them and one such bear was tracked as going 50 miles in one day. There was even one bear who travelled 695 miles in a year!!

Female polar bears don’t travel as much when they are pregnant. They find cosy dens and hibernate for the winter with tummies full of food to wait for the birth of the cubs.

The most southernly part of the Arctic that you will find polar bears is in James Bay, Canada and there are yearly visitors to Newfoundland and Norway. If the weather is really harsh and the sea ice is very thick, they will even travel to Gulf St Lawrence and the Bering Sea.

It is sad that such noble creatures, who go about minding their own business, are so badly affected by us humans. Global warming is a serious problem and as the world warms up and the ice melts, they find it more difficult to get about and get food. Wouldn’t it be a terrible thing if the only polar bears we could see in the future, are in that drink advert?

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