In a bold and risky move, a desperate mother polar bear approached and pawed at a massive sleeping walrus in hopes of finding some nourishment for herself and her starving cub.
Solo bears don’t generally attempt to take on a walrus of this size by themselves, especially in this unhealthy condition, but she was likely hopeful that the animal was either sick or deceased. A fully grown male walrus can top the scales at 4,000 pounds, and this particular female likely weighed less than 500. Approaching the animal with a cub in tow was a courageous move, even for a polar bear.
The bear appears thin and malnourished in the footage, and polar bear expert Jon Aars of the Norwegian Polar Institute believes she was likely unable to produce milk for her young cub. “My guess is [the cub] would very likely die soon if the mother did not find any food,” he said in a statement to National Geographic.
Aars and his colleagues conducted a study on polar bear populations in the Barents Sea, and this female is one of many bears they collared and tracked. His team found that polar bears in this particular region have experienced a particularly substantial loss of sea-ice in comparison to other Arctic regions, which significantly reduces the number of individuals the area can sustain.
Because the bears rely on the sea ice to hunt, they’re extremely susceptible to starvation during the ice-less summer months. And now, because of increasing temperatures, sea-ice is forming later and melting earlier in the season. This extends their time bound to land by a staggering 20 weeks.
The Barents Sea polar bears are the most vulnerable of all of the 19 subpopulations in the Arctic, and experts predict the situation will worsen as sea-ice continues to retreat.
Watch another incredible polar bear sighting in the video below, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.