Because of melting sea ice, it is likely that more polar bears will soon starve, a new study that found large carnivores need to eat 60 percent more than anyone had ever realized. Turns out they are high-energy beasts, burning through 12,325 calories a day — despite sitting around most of the time, according to a unique metabolic analysis of wild bears published in Science.
“Our study reveals polar bears’ utter dependence on seals,” said lead author Anthony Pagano, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Polar bears rely almost exclusively on a calorie-loaded diet of seals. To minimize their energy consumption the bears are still hunted, waiting for hours by seals’ cone-shaped breathing holes in the sea ice. When a seal surfaces to bear the bear stands on its hind legs and smacks it on its head with both its front paws to stun it. Then the bear bites it on the neck and drags it onto the ice.
“They’re far more successful doing this than any other method of hunting,” Pagano said. That’s why the melting of the Arctic sea ice threatens polar bear survival.