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Do Polar Bears Eat Arctic Foxes?

A polar bear is more dominant than an arctic fox. Polar bears may eat arctic foxes if they are unable to catch more substantial meals like seals.

polar bear

When food scarcity arises, a polar bear will hunt Arctic foxes so that it gets the needed calories, but not as it pursues seals. 

This behavior is more common during summer because the ice retreats and thins out, making it unsuitable for this bear’s massive weight. This prevents it from hunting for seals underneath the ice. 

Also, this is a period when the Arctic fox may also follow polar bears and wolves to scavenge for the remains from their prey, consequently making themselves a target for the bear.

Since the Arctic is home to both species, they often come across each other. And, as both of them are carnivores, they often appear near the same spots while looking for food. 

This article researches the unique predator-prey relationship of the polar bear and arctic fox and some of its most interesting aspects.

Does the Polar Bear Prey on Arctic Foxes?

A polar bear will only prey on Arctic foxes when there’s a lack of prey they prefer such as seals. The chances for this increase as summer approaches and the ice cover thins out, making the bear unable to stand on top of it and hunt actively for seals. 

What’s more, since both species are carnivorous, an Arctic fox may cross paths with polar bears when hunting for prey. If the polar bear wants to, it can hunt and eat the fox. Considering they’re much smaller than the polar bear, these foxes are considered easy prey.

But, the Arctic fox shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s intelligent and will keep its distance from polar bears when they’re looking for food. Interestingly, the Arctic fox’s top speed is 27 mph whereas that of the polar bear is 24 mph. 

So, the fox can outrun the polar bear supposing all goes in its favor. 

Arctic foxes usually prey on lemmings, a rodent that lives in the Arctic region, but can also eat anything they find in the tundra. They also scavenge the hunt left by other predators like the polar bear. 

On the other hand, polar bears like to eat seals the most. So, when there are enough seals, it won’t eat an Arctic fox, even if it’s easier to catch. 

Both of these animals have adapted well to the Arctic region which helps them escape predators. The Arctic fox has a white coat that helps it blend with the snow and hunt more efficiently.

The polar bear has a thick layer of fat and fur and stays protected from the cold weather.

Read More: How Do Polar Bears Stay Warm?

Do the Polar Bear and the Arctic Fox Share a Habitat? 

The polar bear and the Arctic fox share a habitat, i.e. the Arctic. The polar bear is mostly centered on ice-covered waters whereas the fox lives in the alpine tundra, in the coastal region, and north of the tree line.

The Arctic fox is well adapted to the cold weather and it’s small and stout. Its legs are stubby, its snout is short, and its ears are curled to reduce heat loss. Their fur is thick and the unique circulation system in the paws helps them preserve the warmth.

In winter, the foxes’ coat is long and white whereas, in summer, it sheds and becomes shorter and grayer. This animal is three feet from nose to tail and can weigh between six and 12 pounds.

It’s much smaller when compared to the polar bear which can weigh up to 1700 pounds and measure up to 11 feet when standing on its back legs! The polar bear is also the largest territorial predator in the world.

It’s equipped with everything to succeed in killing prey-from speed, strong bite, and mighty paws, the polar bear is feared for a reason. Although it’s not usual, they can sometimes kill Arctic foxes, especially when they’re too hungry and are prevented from hunting seals.

The retreating of the ice impedes their efforts and they often need to swim long distances to get to the ice. Climate change is one of the major contributors to the loss of the ice cover which is also threatening the species’ status.

Arcitc fox in the snow
Arctic foxes are among the few species adapted to life in the inhospitable arctic region

Is the Polar Bear more Dominant than the Arctic Fox?

Being the apex predator, the polar bear is a more dominant species than the arctic fox, with impressive weight, strength, and speed.

This fox is very hardy and equipped to survive the cold Arctic where temperatures that can drop below -58 degrees F in the lands without trees where their home is. 

Its furry soles, short ears, and short muzzle are how this animal survives in the cold. Plus, its small size allows it to hide in burrows and take shelter. Its thick tail helps it maintain balance but it’s also helpful as a warm cover in the cold. 

They’re quite fast and able to make short sprints of up to 31 mph. Although they can sometimes be eaten by the polar bear, their main predators are grey wolves and fur trappers in search of their luxuriously warm coats. 

Although they mostly eat eggs, berries, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects, Arctic foxes may follow polar bears and wolves to scavenge the remains of their prey. It’s also common for these foxes to carry food back to their dens and store it. 

This video shows how an Arctic fox uses the opportunity to scavenge the polar bear’s prey:

The polar bear has a thick and insulating fur which keeps it warm in the cold climate and during swimming. Its physical body is ideal for the environment it lives in. Its non-slippery footpads help the bear stand firm on the slippery ice and hunt for seals. 

Their muscular legs and large feet contribute to their excellent swimming skills. They’re actually classified as marine mammals alongside sea lions and seals.

Conclusion 

Although the polar bear and the Arctic fox share a habitat and the polar bear is the dominant species, the bear won’t necessarily hunt and kill the fox if there are enough seals, even if the fox is nearby.

The Arctic fox often follows the polar bear, especially in summer, to scavenge for the remains of the prey they’ve killed. Otherwise, their diet is mostly focused on eggs, reptiles, amphibians, etc.                  

Despite the huge difference in size between the two species and the obvious dominance of the polar bear, the Arctic fox is an intelligent animal with great speed and hiding abilities.

Its white fur allows it to camouflage itself easier and thus, reduce its visibility to predators. Regardless of the subordinate status of the Arctic fox, both species play a vital role in the unique and complex ecosystem of the Arctic.

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