A polar bear is photographed hunting reindeer in the Svalbard archipelago, the Norwegian territory in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. The sight caught the attention of conservationists because it represented a change in the usual diet of these animals, leading them to believe that predators are being pushed to adapt to the increasingly warm climate of the polar regions.
The stalking scene was recorded in August, in the European summer, when the ice sheet recedes and takes with it seals, the main prey of polar bears. In this scenario, a team of researchers from a Polish base in the archipelago caught a baby bear killing a reindeer and took it into the water and drowned it before eating it, according to the site. France 24.
One of the team members who witnessed the spectacle was Isabella Kolašević, a biologist at the University of Gdask, deemed so unusual that it led to a new report on polar biology, which she and other colleagues wrote and published last week.
The three scientists suggested the situation is evidence that polar bears are increasingly inclined to hunt wild animals to compensate for their limited access to seals as a result of accelerated melting.
Reindeer will be hardest hit by this phenomenon, with indications that predation on these animals has increased in recent decades. In addition to the retreat of the ice cover, which keeps polar bears on land longer, reindeer numbers have been increasing in the Svalbard archipelago since 1925, when hunters were forbidden to hunt the species.
The researchers concluded that the search for new prey by polar bears is a matter of “need and opportunity,” according to the British tabloid. Mirror.
The Svalbard archipelago is located only 1,000 km from the North Pole and has a population of about 300 stable polar bears and 20,000 reindeer. Despite the Polish researchers’ theory, other scientists claim that it is necessary to carefully analyze the predatory phenomenon, since the increasing number of animals and humans in the area makes it easy to capture sights such as those observed in August.
“If polar bears killed reindeer in the 1950s and 1960s, it would be very rare to see them, as there were very few people and few bears and few reindeer[in the archipelago],” said Andrew Desrocher, a professor at the University of Alberta, Canada Mirror.
“Now, with modern media, everyone has a camera, social media profiles, and ‘news’ is spreading fast,” he concluded.
Although seals are their main prey, polar bears also feed on eggs, birds, dolphins, and rodents.
Reindeer are also compatible food sources during the summer period, which is now being prolonged due to global warming, according to experts consulted by the British tabloid.
Two days after the first recording, the same polar bear was seen feeding on the carcass of another elk. Jon Ars, Norwegian co-author of the article on rare variation within the food chain, notes that “reindeer can be important at least to some polar bears when they have to spend long periods on the ground.”
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