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Do Polar Bears Eat Arctic Foxes? Why or Why Not?

Since arctic foxes, particularly the red fox and polar bears, reside in the same region, you may wonder, “Do polar bears eat Arctic foxes?” 

After all…

These mammals are omnivores bound to run into each other while searching for sustenance in the Hudson Bay in North America. And with a polar bear being a supreme hunter, does it ever consume the Arctic fox, especially when their usual meal is scarce?

Do Polar Bears Consume Arctic Fox?

Polar bears are indeed known to prey on the Arctic fox, although it is not a primary part of their diet. A polar bear is an apex predator in the Arctic and primarily feed on seal, particularly ringed and bearded seals. They also consume fish species or carcasses of walruses, beluga whales, and other whale species in the sea ice. 

Remember, Polar bears are apex predators, and no other animal, including polar fox, can stand in their way. However, when the opportunity arises, polar bears will consume other Arctic tundra animals, including the Arctic fox, hare, snowy owl, and wolf.

polar bear eating a seal

During certain times of the year, such as the summer when both polar bears and Arctic fox species like red fox are active in the Arctic environment. Therefore, interactions between the two species (polar bear and arctic fox) can occur. 

These two species are carnivores, so they tend to cross paths when hunting.

Polar bears are opportunistic hunters and scavengers with thick fur, so if they come across an Arctic fox, they may attempt to catch and eat it. 

These interactions are more likely when scarce food sources or polar bears are unsuccessful in hunting seals. Foxes are smaller and considered easy prey. But they shouldn’t be underestimated. Foxes are intelligent creatures that can keep their distance when seeing a polar bear.

Arctic foxes follow bears and consume the left carcasses when food is scarce. This means keeping their distance and letting the polar bear feed their prey, and then once they leave, the fox can enjoy the carcass. Unfortunately, this strategy has been known to backfire many times, resulting in them being hunted.

Why Doesn’t a Polar Bear Eat an Arctic Fox When Food Is Available?

Other than their demand for seals, bears have lots of reasons for not hunting and fox actively. They are known to turn to foxes when food is scarce or when an opportunity presents itself. Remember, an Arctic fox can follow bears and consume the remaining carcasses. Some of the key reasons why polar bears don’t hunt foxes regularly: 

Size Difference

The size difference is the key reason bears don’t like hunting arctic foxes, especially when there are other food sources. Arctic foxes are smaller in size than polar bears. And they can run faster than them.

Polar bears can attain a top speed of 24 mph, whereas foxes have a speed of 27mph. This means they’ll waste lots of energy to catch faster and smaller prey. Therefore, they avoid smaller prey like arctic foxes when they have other options. But when an opportunity presents itself, they will hunt and kill an arctic fox.

Hunting Specialization

A polar bear can catch a seal efficiently thanks to their sense of smell and swimming abilities. However, these skills are not useful when dealing with an Arctic fox. This is why they don’t spend too much energy on foxes when food is available. 

But they’re quite elegant and can dig Arctic foxes out of their den where they run to escape predators.

Different Habitats

Even though they both reside in the polar region, they reside in different habitats. Polar bears spend a huge percentage of their time on sea ice hunting whereas arctic foxes can be found near coastlines or on land. Their unique lifestyles reduce their likelihood of encountering each other near the sea ice or the Arctic Ocean. 

This results in fewer opportunities for the two creatures to interact. However, food scarcity can force polar bears to search for food outside their usual environment.

Avoidance Strategy

Foxes are known for their cautious behavior and intelligence. These creatures are clever and know when to stay away from polar bears. Arctic foxes stay away from most of their predators, like red foxes and polar bears. Avoidance is way more effective than getting themselves out of danger.

injured arctic fox

Why Does an Arctic Fox Follow Polar Bears?

One of the interesting facts about foxes is that they follow polar bears in the Arctic Circle. They don’t help them hunt but for another reason. They love feeding carcasses or leaving scraps of other creatures like seals. So after polar bears finish eating, arctic foxes finish what’s left behind.

Arctic foxes are not stronger or bigger than the small mammals that polar bears consume. They’re smarter than most animals, but this strategy often backfires. Polar bears tend to catch them while they’re scavenging for the leftovers.

They have a great sense of smell that helps them spot a carcass from a distance. When hungry, they can get near the carcass or left over. This grants a polar bear an exceptional opportunity to kill them.


Despite being omnivores, polar bears can sometimes consume foxes, but they aren’t their main source of nourishment. They only consume foxes when the weather changes, and they cannot hunt their usual meal. And in the worst-case scenario, like when sick, polar bears can turn to cannibalism. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a polar bear consume an Arctic fox? 

According to the Arctic fox facts, they occupy the same region and are both omnivores. But under certain circumstances, polar bears have been known to hunt various arctic animals, including the fox.

Do polar bears turn to cannibalism?

In extreme cases of food scarcity, polar bears may resort to cannibalism, particularly if they come across dead or weak conspecifics (other polar bears).

Are polar bears opportunistic predators?

Yes, polar bears consume any meat that’s available when food is scarce.

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