Polar Bear Diet Changes as Sea Ice Melts

Dog sniffs ice floe.
Quinoa, a Dutch shepherd, sniffs for polar bear scat on an ice floe.
©AMNH/L. Gormezano

A series of papers recently published by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History suggests that polar bears in the warming Arctic are turning to alternate food sources. As Arctic sea ice melts earlier and freezes later each year, polar bears have a limited amount of time to hunt their historically preferred prey—ringed seal pups—and must spend more time on land. The new research indicates that at least some polar bears in the western Hudson Bay population are using flexible foraging strategies while on land, such as prey-switching and eating a mixed diet of plants and animals, as they survive in their rapidly changing environment.