Not sure about this polar bear cannibalism story

The images, taken in Hudson Bay, Canada, around 200 miles north of the town of Churchill, Manitoba, show a male polar bear carrying the bloodied head of a polar bear cub it has killed for food.

Polar bears usually subsist on seals, which they hunt from a platform of sea ice. But the melting of sea ice as a result of rising global temperatures has made it more difficult for polar bears to hunt seals at sea, confining the bears to land.

This has led to malnourishment and starvation as polar bears are unable to build sufficient fat reserves for winter.

Certainly, that\’s a possible interpretation of the events. However, (and this is of course purely speculation) there are other possible interpretations.

Manitoba Conservation normally receive one to two reports of bear cannibalisation annually, but scientists say they are aware of eight cases so far this year.

OK, bear cannibalisation is not unknown.

There\’s an increase in observed cases. Why?

Are there more people touring the area so that they\’re seeing more? Well, yes, there are more people touring the area (Churchill has become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years….well, compared to the past, anyway).

We also think that cannibalism rises when the population is stressed: not so much in the manner described above, but when population pressure rises. And it\’s certainly true that the population of polar bears in Hudson Bay has risen  in recent years.

It could indeed be climate change causing it: but that\’s all a little too pat just in the week of the Copenhagen conference, isn\’t it?

7 comments on “Not sure about this polar bear cannibalism story

  1. One thing that interests me is the comment that it’s adult MALE bears that seem to be the guilty parties. If this was a starvation thing wouldn’t we be seeing similar behaviour from female bears?

    I know bears aren’t big cats but when a new male lion takes over a pride it is common for him to kill and eat the young offspring of his predecessor. According to the documentaries I have seen it is thought that this behaviour is something to do with male ensuring his genes are the dominant ones in the pride.

    Maybe polar bears operate under similar programming.

  2. Read the ‘Mail’ article.

    Note what is left out, specifically, the adminition from Kivalliqu Inuit Association president Jose Kusugak.

    Which is odd, don’t you think? Aren’t greens always trumpting indigenous populations as able to tell the evil West something about living as part of Nature?

    Strange how they don’t want to hear when they are telling us omething…inconvenient…isn’t it?

  3. “According to the documentaries I have seen it is thought that this behaviour is something to do with male ensuring his genes are the dominant ones in the pride.

    Maybe polar bears operate under similar programming.”

    It is, and they do.

  4. Another thing:

    the melting of sea ice as a result of rising global temperatures has made it more difficult for polar bears to hunt seals at sea, confining the bears to land.

    If the melting ice has made the bears retreat to the shore, where have the seals gone? They spend a lot of time in the water but a trip to places like Cape Cross in Namibia also reveals they spend a lot of time out of it too.

  5. Polar bear populations are thriving in almost all areas they are found. And it’s hardly like they are some freak mutation that spontaneously popped up in the 1950’s. They’ve been around for at least 250,000 years. That’s a half-dozen full ice age/warming cycles at bare minimum. It’s really hard to kill off a smart, capable apex predator like a polar bear.

  6. Male brown bears, polar bears cousins, have been killing cubs for as long as they have been observed. No reason the polar bears would do otherwise.

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