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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cannibal Polar Bears


Art © Frank Frazetta

Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea may be turning to cannibalism because longer seasons without ice keep them from getting to their natural food, a new study by American and Canadian scientists has found. The study reviewed three examples of polar bears preying on each other from January to April 2004 north of Alaska and western Canada, including the first-ever reported killing of a female in a den shortly after it gave birth.

Polar bears kill each other for population regulation, dominance, and reproductive advantage, the study said. Killing for food seems to be less common, said the study's principal author, Steven Amstrup of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center.

"During 24 years of research on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region of northern Alaska and 34 years in northwestern Canada, we have not seen other incidents of polar bears stalking, killing, and eating other polar bears,'' said the study's principal author, Steven Amstrup of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center.

Researchers discovered the first kill in January 2004. A male bear had pounced on a den, killed a female and dragged it 245 feet away, where it ate part of the carcass. Females are about half the size of males. . Link from LiveScience.com