REINDEER FINDING PURSUING POLAR BEARS A DRAG: Researchers captures first known video of bear hunting down reindeer as need for alternative prey grows due to climate

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Photo by P. Nowosa/P. Ulandowska-Monarcha

Polar bears in Svalbard are continuing to expand the diversity of their diet as climate change diminishes their traditional hunting prospects, according to a team of Polish researchers who captured what they say is the first video of a bear stalking and killing an adult reindeer.

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A series of still frames from a video shows a polar bear hunting down a reindeer in the waters of Svalbard in 2020. Images by P. Nowosa/P. Ulandowska-Monarcha.

Biologist Izabela Kulaszewicz witnessed a polar bear chase a male reindeer into the water during a field study in 2020. The predator chased its prey down, attacked with its claws and teeth, then drowned the deer.

“I was shocked,” Kulaszewicz told Science magazine. “I thought reindeer were good swimmers, and the bear would have a bigger problem catching the reindeer. But it was totally different.” After dragging the carcass ashore, the bear ate more than half of it in one sitting.

The bear dragged the carcass to shore and spent hours devouring it as members of the research team captured the hunt on video. The researchers, in a published study, attribute the hunt to a combination of Svalbard’s rebounding reindeer population and diminishing sea ice polar bears traditionally hunt seals on.

Researchers during the 1970s and 1980s suggested polar bears couldn’t hunt reindeer because the latter were too fast on land. But evidence of bear hunting reindeer began surfacing in the early 2000s, although the video is the first recorded evidence.

In recent years Svalbard polar bears have been observed either newly or increasingly eating alternatives to seals such as bird eggs, dolphins and even grass. The Polish researchers stated bears are likely to continue shifting toward more land-based food sources.

Although the loss of sea ice is seen as posing a serious existential long-term threat to bears, recent surveys suggest bears have adapted to changing conditions, with both the population and health of bears thriving.

 

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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