Polar Bears Eating Reindeer – Normal Behaviour Or Result Of Climate Change? – Free PDF Download


  • 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.

  • 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.

About Polar Bear

  • The largest bear in the world and the Arctic’s top predator, polar bears are a powerful symbol of the strength and endurance of the Arctic. The polar bear’s Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means “sea bear”.
  • Polar bears are found in the Arctic circle on the ice-covered waters. These marine mammals are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment.

  • It’s an apt name for this majestic species, which spends much of its life in, around, or on the ocean–predominantly on the sea ice. In the United States, Alaska is home to two polar bear subpopulations.
  • Considered talented swimmers, polar bears can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder.
  • They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellent coat that insulates them from the cold air and water.
  • Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food.
  • A polar bear might catch only one or two out of 10 seals it hunts, depending on the time of year and other variables.
  • Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive.

About Reindeer

  • Reindeer, (Rangifer tarandus), in North America called caribou, species of deer (family Cervidae) found in the Arctic tundra and adjacent boreal forests of Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska, and Canada. Reindeer have been domesticated in Europe.

Polar Bear’s Food

  • 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 for decades, with bears gorging on seabird eggs as well as feeding at the Churchill dump (a rubbish and recycling facility) in Hudson Bay.
  • From stalking and chasing Canadian caribou, fishing for Arctic char and catching geese and rodents to grazing on vegetation and patrolling human refuse sites, polar bears can eat, have eaten and have tried to eat many things.

The climate change threat

  • Polar bears have evolved to be highly efficient predators of marine mammals. They support themselves on a fat-heavy diet and rely on ice-based prey, primarily ringed and bearded seals. As a result, they are profoundly threatened by a warming climate.
  • With rising global temperatures, Arctic sea ice is melting earlier in summer and refreezing later in winter.
  • And as the ice-free periods become longer, polar bears are spending more time on land without access to their primary food.
  • A recent study found the energy demands of polar bears to be higher than previously assumed.
  • With less time on the sea ice, and less seal fat to consume, polar bears will find it more difficult to meet their energy needs — leading to higher death rates.
  • At the same time, higher Arctic wind speeds may make hunting seals harder still.
  • Therefore, increasing reports of summer scavenging, foraging and terrestrial hunting are unsurprising in the context of climate change, high energy stress and the resulting effect on their bodies.

Burdened by publicity

  • If the same phenomenon was happening in the 1950s and 1960s, no one would likely have seen it.
  • Over the past few years, photos and videos of polar bears have garnered enormous online attention. From 56 bears besieging a Russian town, to tragic sequences of emaciated individuals, polar bears are being used as the face of our climate catastrophe.


Female polar bears give birth during

​(a) ​spring

​(b) ​summer

​(c) ​autumn

​(d) ​winter




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