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The polar bear's most common hunting method is called still-hunting: The bear uses its excellent sense of smell to locate a seal breathing hole, and crouches nearby in silence for a seal to appear. When the seal exhales, the bear smells its breath, reaches into the hole with a forepaw, and drags it out onto the ice. The polar bear kills the seal by biting its head to crush its skull. The polar bear also hunts by stalking seals resting on the ice: Upon spotting a seal, it walks to within 100 yd (91 m), and then crouches. If the seal does not notice, the bear creeps to within 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12 m) of the seal and then suddenly rushes forth to attack. A third hunting method is to raid the birth lairs that female seals create in the snow
The polar bear is an enormously powerful predator. It can kill an adult walrus, although it rarely attempts to as a walrus can be more than twice the bear's weight. Polar bears also have preyed on beluga whales, by swiping at them at breathing holes. The whales are of similar size to the walrus and nearly as difficult for the bear to subdue. Most terrestrial animals in the Arctic can outrun the polar bear on land as polar bears overheat quickly, and most marine animals the bear encounters can outswim it. In some areas, the polar bear's diet is supplemented by walrus calves and by the carcasses of dead adult walruses or whales, whose blubber is readily devoured even when rotten.
When sea ice is unavailable during summer and early autumn, some populations live off fat reserves for months at a time. Polar bears have also been observed to eat a wide variety of other wild foods, including muskox, reindeer, birds, eggs, rodents, shellfish, crabs, and other polar bears.