Yes, Polar bears do eat fish but only when their food is scarce and it is unable to find its usual prey which includes seals and carcasses of whales (i.e. Beluga Whale, Grey Whale and Bowhead Whale), walrus and narwhals.
When food is scarce, Polar Bears will search for alternate prey available on the shores of Arctic. These alternate prey includes:
- Even Berries
- Human Garbage
Sometimes, Polar Bears will also attempt to hunt adult Walrus and Beluga Whale.
Do Polar Bears Eat Fish
Now we know that polar bear do eat fish but it is not its usual diet. Why do polar bears eat fish because its usual prey is not available and it is hungry.
Though Grizzly Bears rely on fish such as salmon and trout but unlike them Polar Bears do not rely on fish. There are two main reasons why fish is not part of its main diet:
- Most of the fish in the Arctic are deep down in the sea beyond the reach of Polar Bears.
- Fish cannot be an alternative to the seal fat required for the survival of the polar bears.
Polar Bears are only found in the Arctic regions where the weather is extremely cold. It is very hard for the Polar Bears to find food for most of the year. Its most active hunting season starts from late April to Mid of July, during which it eats enough food to store fat reserve for the whole year. The season during which no food is available for Polar Bears may last 3 to 4 months or even longer.
Among all the predators in the Arctic marine ecosystem, Polar Bear is at the top. This means that it is capable of hunting large marine animals. Polar Bears mostly go for seals when they are hungry as its body requires huge amount of seal fat to survive in the extreme cold of Arctic. Among all the members of the Bear Family (Ursidae), Polar Bears eat the most meat.
Why do polar bears eat fish
Due to global warming there has been a change in the length of the seasons during the last decade. Summers are getting longer and winters are getting shorter thus forcing the polar bears to go for its alternate prey which also includes fish. It is due to this reason Polar Bears in eastern Greenland and southern Svalbard are catching fish. Polar Bears. Unlike Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears are not expert in catching fish and there is very little ice in summer for the Polar Bears to serve as their hunting ground.
Sea ice serves as the main hunting ground for polar bears and it depends heavily on it. Catching seals in the ice is very easy for them as compared to catching them in open water so when ice floes retreats in summer, polar bears tend to follow the ice to stay near their food. Now with elongated summers most the sea ice melts down forcing polar bears to stay ashore. This change in season pattern has effected the feeding behavior of polar bears and they are forced to rely more on their alternate prey. Some polar bears are forced to go for seaweed, birds, eggs, kelp and Arctic char (a type of salmon which migrate upstream to spawn). The innate ability of Polar Bears to find food and develop new fish hunting skills are very crucial for their survival.
Fish as a prey is not enough to meet the food requirements of polar bear but they do help them to survive this lean period. Polar Bears mostly catch Salmon and Cod during swimming when they intend to eat fish.
Learn more : What Do Polar Bears Eat