Polar Bear Cannibalism is Result of Global Warming

Polar bear cubs forced to swim long distances with their mothers appear to have a higher mortality rate than cubs that didnt have to swim as far, a new study reports.

Polar bear cannibalism is on the rise in the Arctic, where diminishing sea ice has trapped them without their traditional food sources. According to the BBC, environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross was on assignment in the Svalbard archipelago when she caught a shot of an adult polar bear dragging the body of the cub it just killed across the ice.

“As soon as the adult male became aware that a boat was approaching him, he basically stood to attention—he straddled the young bear’s body, asserting control over it and conveying ‘this is my food,’” Ross said. “He then picked up the bear in his jaws and, just using the power of his jaws and his neck, transported it from one floe to another. And eventually, when he was a considerable distance away, he stopped and fed on the carcass.”

The news outlet reported that polar bears normally hunt seals, but with their options limited by the lack of ice, they will turn against their own kind. In the case documented by Ross, it was just one of several recently reported instances of polar bear cannibalism. Other observations have been made by scientists in the past few years.

“This type of intraspecific predation has always occurred to some extent,” Ross 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.”

MSNBC reported that as long as climate change is expected to continue, interspecies cannibalism will increase. Sea ice has already fallen to its second-lowest extent since the National Snow and Ice Data Center began recording in 1979.

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