Do Polar Bears Eat Penguins? (And Other Little Known Facts)

I always felt great admiration for polar bears and penguins as both animals thrive in some of the harshest climates in the world.

Wondering if polar bears love to eat penguins? This simple question seems to pop up often, so let’s see what the answer is…

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Do polar bears eat penguins?

Polar bears don’t eat penguins, and the single biggest reason why they don’t is that they live in opposite places on Earth and can’t reach each other. Polar bears live in the North Pole and penguins live in the South Pole, and they’ve never occupied the same territory at the same time before.

They were never destined to meet.

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What Do Polar Bears Eat?

Polar Bears
Polar Bears

Polar bears are the most carnivorous of all the bears. It’s definitely because there’s not much food available in the Arctic except other animals, seals, to be exact.

The North Pole is home to millions of seals, which become polar bears’ prey when they surface out of holes in the ice to breathe or when they emerge on the ice to rest.

Ringed (Pusa hispida) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) are the main sources of food for polar bears, and they kill them by biting the head to crush the skull.

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Although most terrestrial animals in the Arctic can outrun the polar bear on land, and most marine animals the bear encounters can outswim it, polar bears are still very skilled and agile hunters that catch their prey by waiting still on top of an ice hole waiting for seals (or narwhals and even walruses or whales!) to get some air.

They will then swipe them with their massive paw and drag them out onto the ice to feast on skin and blubber.

Polar Bears Infographic
Polar Bears Infographic

Adult bears will eat only calorie-rich skin and blubber and leave the rest of the carcass for inferior polar bears or other animals to eat.

Another amazing feat they can do is to climb near-vertical cliffs to eat birds’ chicks and eggs.

Polar bears, unlike other bears, can fast for up to several months during late summer and early fall, when they cannot hunt for seals because the sea is unfrozen and will live off fat reserves for months at a time.

You see, they do not hibernate and have to stay resourceful in trying times.

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Do Polar Bears Eat People?

Although there are 4 million (!) people living in the Arctic worldwide, attacks by polar bears on humans are very rare. They might attack a person when the animals are diseased or natural prey is scarce, often leading them to attack and eat anything they can kill.

They’ll mostly come into contact with humans when the bears are investigating and eating garbage.

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What Do Penguins Eat?

Penguins are carnivores, and they’ll eat fish, krill, crustaceans, and squid. They search for prey in open waters in either ice-free areas of open water or tidal cracks in pack ice.

One of their feeding strategies is to dive to around 50 m (160 ft), where they can easily spot fish like the bald notothen (Pagothenia borchgrevinki) swimming against the bottom surface of the sea-ice.

A penguin will swim up to the bottom of the ice and catch the fish. It then dives again and repeats the sequence about half a dozen times before surfacing to breathe.

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What Eats Penguins?

Penguins would definitely be on polar bears’ menu if they lived on the same landmass. But penguins have fierce predators even without polar bears.

We’ll start with southern giant petrels that prey on penguin chicks and are responsible for over one-third of chick deaths in some colonies and the south polar skua that mainly scavenges for dead chicks.

Then there’s the leopard seal, which takes adult birds and fledglings soon after entering the water, and the ominous killer whales or orcas that will attack penguins of any age in or near water.

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Why Are There No Polar Bears In Antarctica?

By the time bears evolved from small mammals, Antarctica was already separated from other continents, and polar bears never leaped the South Pole.

Even though polar bears are excellent swimmers, they would have great difficulties in reaching Antarctica, and even then, the climate would probably not be a good fit for them.

You see, the South Pole is much colder than the North Pole, where polar bears live.

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Can We Move Polar Bears To Antarctica?

If you’re worried about the melting ice in the Arctic and are afraid that polar bears could go extinct, you might be asking: why don’t we move some of the polar bears to Antarctica to save them?

Well, if history taught us anything, it would be extremely foolish for several reasons. One of them is that polar bears would probably devour most of the South Pole’s fauna if let loose.

Wildlife species who reside in or seasonally use Antarctica are generally naïve to surface predators and would be sitting ducks (at least in the beginning).

They could also bring unknown diseases, the fact that in the long run, Antarctic species will be facing similar habitat loss issues as Arctic species, and so on.

Can We Move Penguins To Arctic?

Penguins would be easy prey for polar bears and other animals. Predation of penguins, especially on their breeding grounds, by arctic foxes, minks, arctic stoats, wolves, and predatory birds such as skuas would rapidly devastate their populations soon after introduction.

If there were a spike in the polar bear population because of the introduction of “fast food” penguins, it would soon dwindle as the penguins failed to sustain their numbers.

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Why Don’t Polar Bears Eat Penguins Joke

Why don’t polar bears eat penguins? Because they can’t take the wrapper off!


Do Polar Bears Have Predators?

Polar bears have no natural predators. They can only be a threat to each other due to climate change, where newborn cubs may be cannibalized by malnourished mothers or adult male polar bears. Ice melting leads polar bears to starvation which forces them to kill and eat each other to survive.  

Do Polar Bears Drink Water?

Polar bears don’t drink the water in the way other animals do. To get drinking water, the polar bears would have to eat snow, which would make them even more thirsty. Polar bears get their water from the chemical reaction that breaks down fat. This is why polar bears eat fat in seals and leave the rest for scavengers. Their diet is high in fat but low in protein.


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