Observations of Cannibalism by Polar Bears (<i>Ursus maritimus</i>) on Summer and Autumn Sea Ice at Svalbard, Norway

  • Ian Stirling
  • Jenny E. Ross
Keywords: polar bear, Ursus maritimus, intraspecific predation, cannibalism, Svalbard

Abstract

We report three instances of intraspecific killing and cannibalism of young polar bears by adult males on the sea ice in Svalbard in summer and autumn. During breakup and melting in summer, the area of sea ice around the Svalbard Archipelago declines to a fraction of the winter total, and in many areas it disappears completely. As the area of sea ice that polar bears can use for hunting declines, progressively fewer seals are accessible to the bears, and therefore the bears’ hunting success likely declines as well. Thus, at this time of year, young polar bears may represent a possible food source for adult males. As the climate continues to warm in the Arctic and the sea ice melts earlier in the summer, the frequency of such intraspecific predation may increase.

Published
2011-12-05