Polar Bear Nutrition: The Role of Fish in Their Diet

do polar bears eat fish

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Polar bears are one of the largest land predators in the world, weighing up to 1500 pounds. Obviously, these amazing beasts have to eat a lot to maintain their weight.

They feed primarily on seals and other marine mammals, but they also opportunistically eat fish when they can obtain them.

But, how often do these marine animals compete for the same prey in open water? Do polar bears hunt for their meal more often than fish?

In this article, I aim to answer the question: Do polar bears eat fish? The sad truth is that not all polar bears are fortunate enough to be able to catch seals for dinner when they need it.

They often have no choice but to take whatever food they can find, and sometimes that includes fish.

Do Polar Bears Really Eat Fish?

Polar bears are known to eat whatever they can get their paws on.

Due to the fact that seals are an extremely important part of their diet, a lot of people assume that polar bears rarely eat fish.

The truth is many polar bears from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland actually rely on fish for a big chunk of their diet.

Usually, polar bears eat small to medium-sized fish (more information on this below).

When people hear about polar bears eating fish, they assume that the bear will only eat small clams and other animals.

But these assumptions are wrong and have nothing to do with the physiology or habits of polar bears.

Fish is usually high in the food chain in areas where they can be caught. For example, Alaska has a huge variety of fish species, which leaves plenty of food sources for polar bears.

They will often eat their prey’s eggs, as well.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, polar bears are opportunistic predators, which means they will eat whatever they can find.

When they are at sea looking for seals, they will kill any fish that cross their path to satisfy their hunger.

What Type Of Fish Do Polar Bears Eat?

An adult female polar bear (whose size is usually about 400 pounds) has enough to eat. They usually eat fish up to their size.

However, smaller fish, especially those that are less than six inches long, are common prey as well.

Depending on the season, polar bears will probably eat a variety of different fish species.

Various types of fish that are most common in the polar bear diet include cod, pollock, walleye, herring, and salmon.

These are not the only types of fish that polar bears eat.

For example, some sharks (such as Greenland sharks) are a reliable food source for polar bears in the fall.

One study from 2010 discovered that Greenland sharks were the most common type of fish in polar bear diets.

Greenland sharks are often eaten by polar bears after they die from natural causes or from getting caught in fishing nets.

In addition to fish, the polar bear’s diet can also include other marine animals like marine mammals.

While seals are a big part of their diet, polar bears will sometimes eat other types of animals such as shrimp, crabs, and clams.

Do Polar Bears Eat Small Fish?

As mentioned earlier, polar bears will eat any type of fish that they can catch. However, in the case of seals, they will also eat small fish (those less than six inches long).

Some small fish that polar bears hunt for include pike and lake trout. Lake trout is the most common prey that polar bears eat in the fall.

Lake trout are often preferred because they are a good source of nutrition and taste great when cooked.

Polar bears are omnivores, which means they can eat plants and animals.

However, they usually only eat meat and fish because they don’t have enough fat to store as much energy as the plants that they eat would.

Since polar bears are carnivores, they prefer to eat food that contains a lot of protein. Most fish species contain more protein than most plants do.

So, it is not unusual for polar bears to hunt for small fish and prey on other marine animals just so they can get more protein in their diet.

What Is A Polar Bear’s Favorite Food?

There is no doubt that a polar bear’s favorite food is the seal. A lot of polar bears rely on seals for food because they are available and easily hunted.

When their usual hunting habits fail, many polar bears will start to turn to other types of fish for an alternative source of food.

Since these animals live in the wild, they have to adapt to the environment around them so they can survive.

When people picture a polar bear eating fish, they think it is only a small fish with no scales, but that is not always true. In some cases, the polar bear might need to eat big fish (like salmon) to survive.

How Much Fish Do Polar Bears Eat?

As mentioned earlier, polar bears are not picky when it comes to their food. They will eat a variety of marine animals that they can catch.

They usually try to get as many food sources as they can, sometimes they are even able to catch and eat birds like ptarmigans and loons.

How much fish do polar bears eat? In some cases, an adult polar bear will consume up to 20 pounds of fish per day if they haven’t eaten in a while.

If they are lucky and have plenty of seals, they will not eat as many fish as they would otherwise.

On the other hand, if there is a shortage of food in the area, polar bears will prey on whatever animal they can catch and eat.


Polar bears can eat a variety of different fish. They usually eat small fish like pike and lake trout. But, they will also consume larger fish if necessary.

In addition to fish, they also eat other marine animals like seals. Their diet consists mostly of meat because they need protein to survive.

Polar bears usually eat around 20 pounds of fish per day. However, this number can increase or decrease depending on the availability of food in the area.

They are not particular when it comes to their food. They will eat whatever they can catch to survive.