The Top of the Arctic Animal Food Chain – the Polar Bear

by Daniel Fox Customer story

You did it! You made the call you’ve wanted to make for years and booked yourself an Arctic Adventure. You made your flight, you sailed the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, your feet touched down where so very few have dared to tread. And then you hear it...
Antarctic Peninsula

Regions: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Highlights: Polar Bear

The Top of the Arctic Animal Food Chain – the Polar Bear

You did it! You made the call you’ve wanted to make for years and booked yourself an Arctic vacation. You made your flight, you sailed the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, your feet touched down where so very few have dared to tread. 

And then you hear it. 

A huffing. A grunt. Snow squeaking under heavy feet. You turn and see you’re not alone.

It towers over you at 3 metres tall. It severely outweighs you (we hope) at 700kg. It’s always hungry and it eats almost anything it can get its paws on.

You’ve just met Ursus Maritimus – the polar bear.

So while you contemplate the beautiful beast before you and do your very best to keep your heart from pounding its way out of your chest, here are 5 quick facts to make your encounter even more interesting.

1. What do Polar Bears Eat?

Polar bears will eat any sort of meat they can catch – musk-ox, crustaceans, reindeer, whale meat, rodents, your Uncle Ralph, or even other polar bears. They’ll eat plants if they absolutely have to during lean months of the year. 

The ideal polar bear meal is served up with bearded or ringed seals. Of all the arctic animals on the polar bear’s menu, seals give the biggest reward for the smallest amount of effort, what with all their lying around like lazy lumps on ice flows and beaches.

2. How do Polar Bears Hunt (More Importantly, Can I Outrun Them)?

Not as fast as most of the animals they hunt, polar bears can run up to a maximum of about 40kms/hour for very short sprints. It’s possible you could outrun a polar bear… if you’re Usain Bolt.    

Running attacks are generally not worth the polar bear’s effort – moving that much bulk at a sprint burns up a lot of calories, meaning they might even use up more calories in the chase than they would gain from eating their prey.

So polar bears have to get crafty instead. They’re aware of scents and know to approach from downwind so their smell won’t drive lunch away.

Speaking of polar bear movements…

3. Where Do Polar Bears Live?

Polar bears are of course found roaming the Arctic, always on the lookout for seal hangouts – breaks in the ice called leads. They’re an international bunch, living in the northern regions of Canada, the U.S., Norway, Greenland, and Russia.

Scientists believe that polar bears have “home ranges.” The range of any one particular bear depends on how much food is available within its borders – the more food, the smaller the range.

Whatever the size of the range, the bears are known to walk and swim thousands of kilometres in search of more bounteous locations.

4. How do Polar Bears Mate?

With the lights off.

To be more specific - around April or May a young polar bear fellow’s fancies turn to thoughts of love. Sniffing out a girl bear’s scent, he’ll track her down and will usually get very pushy with the other boy bears to win her affections. These fights can result in a variety of scars and broken teeth.

After a week of bliss, the now-expectant mother will toddle off to eat as much as she can, gaining at least 200kgs. Towards the end of September, she’ll dig herself a den on solid ground (not on ice flows) and settle down into a state somewhat like hibernation.

Six or so months later out pops the new additions to the family (the average is 2 cubs per momma). And if Knut taught us anything, it’s that polar bear babies are adorable

The family will usually stay together for about 2 ½ years, at which point Mom will chase them off so she can finally have some time to herself.

And finally…

5. How Do I Survive a Polar Bear Encounter?

You bring along a friend who runs slower than you. Or you can contact the Arctic animal expedition experts of Oceanwide Expeditions. We’re here to help you experience the greatest and most unique adventure of your life. :)

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