The polar bear is shocking the scientific community by changing it’s diet. NBC News reports:
Arctic polar bears may be adjusting their eating habits as their sea ice habitat melts and the furry white predators stand to lose the floating platform they depend on to hunt seals, their primary food. According to researchers, however, the bears are displaying flexible eating habits as their world changes around them.
Indeed, scientific studies indicate polar bear populations are falling as the sea ice disappears earlier each spring and forms later in the fall. But a series of papers based on analysis of polar bear poop released over the past several months indicate that at least some of the bears are finding food to eat when they come ashore, ranging from bird eggs and caribou to grass seeds and berries.
“What our results suggest is that polar bears have flexible foraging strategies,” Linda Gormezano, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a co-author of several of the papers, told NBC News.
The results stem from research in western Hudson Bay, near Chruchill, Manitoba, Canada, which is in the southern extent of polar bear habitat and serves as a harbinger of what the animals are likely to face throughout their Arctic range as the climate continues to warm and sea ice breaks up earlier and earlier each spring.
The flexible foraging strategy of polar bears “means that there may be more to this picture in terms of how polar bears will adjust to changing ice conditions” than indicated by models based on the spring breakup date of the sea ice and thus their access to seals, Gormezano said.
She added that nobody knows for sure how well polar bears will adapt to the changing food supply, but a big step toward an answer is to study what they eat on land “rather than assume that they may just be fasting.”