Polar bears on Alaska's Beaufort Sea coast spend about 70 percent of their daylight hours resting and only about 15 percent walking, and subsist on the equivalent of one adult ringed seal every 10 days. Those are the findings from a study led by the United States Geological Survey that involved placing small cameras on the necks of seven female polar bears in the springs of 2014 and 2015, providing a POV insight into the bears' daily lives.
There's a reason the cameras were all fixed to females, as all radio collars are as well. The necks of mature males are so large that any collars fastened around them would soon simply slide off over the bears' heads.
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The other 15 percent of the time was spent divided among swimming, grooming, eating, interacting with males and other activities. The preliminary findings were revealed by USGS scientist Anthony Pagano at a recent Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, and reported by Yereth Rosen in Alaska Dispatch News.
Showing the harshness of life in the Alaskan Arctic, even for a species that is supremely adapted to the environment, Pagano said that, during the 8 to 11 days that the cameras were attached, only three of the bears successfully caught and ate seals. The other four either scavenged from carcasses or didn't eat at all.
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Pagano also said that the findings add further evidence to counter the claim that polar bears will be able to adapt as sea ice melts by shifting their diet from seals to the likes of birds or their eggs. Seals, he pointed out, provide a lot of energy, and bears can just wait by a breathing hole for one to appear. Searching for or hunting down land-based prey - clambering up cliffs to reach bird nests, for example - would burn many more calories.
The research is expected to continue this spring.
via Alaska Dispatch News