Unbelievable footage of a polar bear chasing a reindeer into the water, dragging it ashore and eating it was captured on video in the arctic.
The young female bear drowned the sizable male reindeer in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, which lies about halfway between Norway and the North Pole.
Rare events like these are leading some researchers to believe that polar bears are relying more heavily on terrestrial animals for food as retreating sea ice makes it increasingly difficult to feed on marine mammals.
“The whole situation was so amazing that it was like watching a documentary,” recalled University of Gdansk biologist Izabela Kulaszewicz. “You could almost hear the voice of a narrator in the background saying that you absolutely have to watch this event because we will most likely never see anything like it again.”
Scientists believe that reindeer may become a diet staple of bears in the region, as bears are now stranded on land for extended periods. That, and the reindeer population is increasing in some areas due to hunting bans.
Other researchers — like University of Alberta professor Andrew Derocher — believe that the events may simply be the result of changing population dynamics in Svalbard. “If polar bears were killing reindeer back in the 1950s and 60s, it would have been very rare to have been seen, as there were few people, few bears, and few reindeer,” he said.
To his credit, polar bears are opportunistic hunters, and will predate on anything from bird eggs to dolphins. High-fat seals provide the majority of sustenance for them, however, and are unfortunately becoming extremely difficult for the bears to capture.
Whatever the reason, Derocher believes that bears won’t be around for much longer. “There’s not enough ice to sustain a polar bear population,” he said. “I suspect that given the trend, the Barents Sea polar bear population — which includes Svalbard — is one that will disappear this century.”