Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Polar Bears Are Increasingly Resorting to Cannibalism, Scientists Say

Animals
A polar bear is seen stopping to drink near the north pole. Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The fossil fuel industry is driving polar bears to cannibalism.


Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences said Wednesday that there were increasing reports of bears attacking other bears for food, The Moscow Times reported.

"Cases of cannibalism among polar bears are a long-established fact, but we're worried that such cases used to be found rarely while now they are recorded quite often," polar bear expert at Moscow's Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution Ilya Mordvintsev told the Interfax news agency, as AFP reported.

Mordvintsev, who presented his findings in Saint Petersburg, attributed the increase in cannibalism to lack of other food options.

"In some seasons there is not enough food and large males attack females with cubs," he said.

Fossil fuel extraction is attacking the polar bears' habitat and traditional food sources on two fronts. On the one hand, the climate crisis is heating Russia 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world, according to The Moscow Times. Sea ice extent in the Russian Arctic by the end of summer has decreased by 40 percent, fellow scientist Vladimir Sokolov said, according to AFP.

On the other hand, oil and gas development in the Yamal Peninsula and the Gulf of Ob is directly disturbing the polar bears' habitat, Mordvintsev said, according to The Moscow Times. Their hunting grounds along the gulf have become a shipping channel for liquefied natural gas, AFP reported.

"The Gulf of Ob was always a hunting ground for the polar bear. Now it has broken ice all year round," Mordvintsev said, according to AFP.

However, the increased human presence in the region also means the uptick in reported bear cannibalism could be partly attributed to the fact that there are now more people around to witness it.

"Now we get information not only from scientists but also from the growing number of oil workers and [defense] ministry employees," Mordvintsev said.

But the uptick in reported cannibalism is far from the only signal that polar bears are suffering because of human activity. A study published this month found that polar bears in Canada and Greenland were losing weight and having fewer babies because of reduced sea ice.

This loss of habitat is also pushing bears into human villages. In 2019, Russian authorities had to declare a state of emergency when more than 50 polar bears wandered into a settlement on Russia's Novaya Zemlya islands.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks in the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Just over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job."

Read More Show Less
Dicamba is having a devastating impact in Arkansas and neighboring states. A farmer in Mississippi County, Arkansas looks at rows of soybean plants affected by dicamba. The Washington Post / Getty Images

Documents unearthed in a lawsuit brought by a Missouri farmer who claimed that Monsanto and German chemical maker BASF's dicamba herbicide ruined his peach orchard revealed that the two companies knew their new agricultural seed and chemical system would likely damage many U.S. farms, according to documents seen by The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and other leaders speak to the press on March 28, 2020 in Seattle. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Washington State has seen a slowdown in the infection rate of the novel coronavirus, for now, suggesting that early containment strategies have been effective, according to the Seattle NBC News affiliate.

Read More Show Less
A bushfire burns outside the Perth Cricket Stadium in Perth, Australia on Dec. 13, 2019. PETER PARKS / AFP via Getty Images

By Albert Van Dijk, Luigi Renzullo, Marta Yebra and Shoshana Rapley

2019 was the year Australians confronted the fact that a healthy environment is more than just a pretty waterfall in a national park; a nice extra we can do without. We do not survive without air to breathe, water to drink, soil to grow food and weather we can cope with.

Read More Show Less

By Fino Menezes

Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.

Read More Show Less