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Polar bears eating reindeer: normal behaviour or result of climate change?


FILE — A polar bear in Kaktovik, Alaska, Sept. 11, 2016. Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday, July 20, 2020. (Josh Haner/The New York Times) Written by Henry Anderson-Elliott

Recently, scientists in Hornsund, Svalbard — a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic ocean — witnessed a polar bear pursuing a reindeer into the sea before killing it, dragging it ashore and eating it. The video that they captured was widely shared on news and social media platforms. Then, two days later, they saw the same bear beside a second fresh reindeer kill.

Their observations are the first detailed account of a complete and successful polar bear hunt of a Svalbard reindeer. But they follow 13 previous reports of polar bears preying and scavenging on reindeer on the same archipelago between 1983 and 1999. These are far from the first accounts of polar bears varying their diets. Normally, in the months when the sea is frozen, they enjoy a diet of offshore seals. But their use of supplementary food sources in the leaner summer months has been known […]

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