Polar bears turning cannibals in lean time

Dec. 8, 2011 at 11:51 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Cannibalism is increasing among polar bears trapped on land in the arctic without food due to the loss of sea ice from global warming, wildlife experts say.

Environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross has captured an image of an adult polar bear dragging the body of a cub it had just killed across the Arctic ice in the far north of Norway.

Polar bears, which normally hunt seals, will seek out other sources of food, even their own kind, in lean times, she said.

"This type of intraspecific predation has always occurred to some extent," she told the BBC.

"However, there are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change."

Without sea ice as a platform from which to hunt seals, bears have gone looking for alternative sources of food, Ross said.

"Predating another bear is a way to get food; it's probably a relatively easy way for a big adult male," she said. "And it seems that because of the circumstances of the loss of sea ice -- that kind of behavior may be becoming more common."

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