• A Washington State Study Confirms Temperature Threat To Polar Bears

  • Biggest, Baddest Ice Bears Aren't As Nearly As Bad on Dry Ground  

  • "Land Animal" Misnomer For Polar Giants

At 10 feet in height and weighing up to 15-hundred pounds, polar bears, the snow white monsters of the north, are said to be the biggest land predators on the planet - but new research from Washington State University would seem to refute that claim. It's not that there is some bigger land-based apex predator out there. No, it's just that Polar Bears run the risk of starvation when off the ice and stranded on dry ground.

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Berlin Zoo Receives New Polar Bear
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Specialist Bear Has Limited Options

To maintain their body mass polar bears need a lot of rich food like seals and sea lions. That means hunting on ocean ice. That kind of grub is hard to come by on land as the sea ice melts.

During a three-week summer window, WAZZU scientists focused on measuring bear energy levels by watching 20 bears try to adjust to life on land. Between resting, scavenging, and foraging nearly all of them lost about 2 pounds per day.

The director of the Washington State University Bear Center, Charles Robbins, said the polar bear is a specialized hunter and not as food-flexible as other bears.

Polar bears are not grizzly bears wearing white coats. They’re very, very different...no strategy will allow polar bears to exist on land beyond a certain amount of time.

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Changing Bear Habits Is Hard And Failure Could Prove Fatal

Some scientists have suggested that polar bears could adapt to a forced life on land due to longer ice-free seasons brought about by global warming but this study in the journal Nature Communications. doesn't indicate that.  The research shows bears spent too much energy pursuing foods with an insufficient energy payoff.

Anthony Pagano, a research wildlife biologist concludes,

As polar bears are forced on land earlier, it cuts into the period that they normally acquire the majority of the energy they need to survive. With increased land use, the expectation is that we’ll likely see increases in starvation, particularly with adolescents and females with cubs.


Polar Bear Cub Learns To Swim
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Sobering Reminder Of Life's Fragility

No one wants to see the end of polar bears but the Museum of Natural History offers a final sobering thought.


Species go extinct all the time. Scientists estimate that at least 99.9 percent of all species of plants and animals that ever lived are now extinct.

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