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Cannibalism is not a part of polar bears' M.O. The animals normally refrain from feasting on their own kind.
But desperate times apparently call for quite disturbing measures. Just ask photojournalist Jenny E. Ross.
In July 2010, BBC News reports that Ross witnessed a polar bear killing and eating a cub in the Svalbard archipelago of the Arctic. She recently presented her photos and story at the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, and her paper covering the event has been published in the journal Arctic, co-authored by polar bear specialist Dr. Ian Stirling
Ross told BBC News that the polar bear killed the cub with sharp bites to the head, and once the bear spotted a boat, he became protective over his meal.
While this isn't the first time that a polar bear has been seen eating a fellow bear, there has been a noticeable increase in occurrences, "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," Ross told BBC News.
In 2009, The Canadian Press reported that witnesses saw up to eight males eating cubs around Churchill, Manitoba in one season. In the past, the bears were able to travel the iced-over Hudson Bay for food, but in recent years it was taking more time to freeze over. While tourism was considered a possible explanation, experts also considered that there may be a link to climate change.
The increase in the Svalbard polar bear population in recent years, with con- sequently higher abundance of adult bears, may have increased cannibalism and predation upon cubs.
We observed a case of cannibalism by a 23-year-old adult male polar bear in very poor physical condition on Southampton Island, N.W.T. It had apparently killed an adult female and was feeding on the carcass. Cannibalism among polar bears does occur under natural conditions. It is difficult to document how often this occurs and of what ecological significance it might be.
Originally posted by NuclearPaul
A lot of animals kill their offspring if food is scarce, apparently because they know they will not survive anyway.
I'd check the situation of their natural food in that area.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the polar bear population is currently at 20,000 to 25,000 bears, up from as low as 5,000-10,000 bears in the 1950s and 1960s. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain noted that the polar bear populations 'may now be near historic highs,'" it read.
Scottish scientist Dr. Chad Dick, of the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso, after researching the log books of Arctic explorers spanning the past 300 years, believes the outer edge of sea ice may expand and contract over regular periods of 60 to 80 years. According to his research findings, he concluded, "the recent worrying changes in Arctic sea ice are simply the result of standard cyclical movements, and not a harbinger of major climate change."