The planet is teaming with top-of-the-food-chain predators, and while humans are easily the biggest consumers we are by no means the most impressive hunters. For this, we must look to the cunning behemoths of the animal kingdom as Kodiak bears and Siberian tigers make us look like puny naked monkeys.
But who is the greatest predator of them all? According to Polar Bears International (PBI), when it comes to terrestrial predators there’s nothing that compares to the awesome might of a polar bear. These nomadic beasts have the largest range of any animal living on land and are marked as the largest terrestrial carnivores on Earth by the Guinness World Records.
Reaching staggering heights of around 3 meters (10 feet) when standing on their hind legs, polar bears aren’t just enormous but also incredibly intelligent. They’ve adapted a specialized way of hunting that relies on taking seals by surprise with the breathing holes they need to survive, and have even been reported using tools to kill their quarry by hurling icy rocks at walruses.
To learn more about the incredible hunting skills of the world’s largest terrestrial predator, we spoke to Dr John Whiteman, chief research scientist at PBI and assistant professor of biology at Old Dominion University.
Clearly, polar bears need no help when it comes to taking out a seal, but unfortunately, the sea ice on which they hunt is disappearing, pushing these animals ever nearer to extinction. As Whiteman explained, their remarkable adaptations to a frozen environment are also what make them vulnerable in the face of a changing climate, so on International Polar Bear Day we remember that sometimes even the world’s largest terrestrial predator could use a helping hand.
You can support PBI’s work using BearDar to keep polar bears and humans safe while living in close proximity, to detect and protect dens, and preserve the climate that sustains their fragile habitat.