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Moment a polar bear hunts and feasts on a reindeer is seen in first-ever footage


Polar bears typically hunt seals from sea-ice in the Arctic Circle, but the endangered animals are being pushed onto land longer due to a decline in ice and are looking for new prey to feast on.

Biologists at the Polish Polar Station, located on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, released the first footage of a polar bear hunting and eating a reindeer.

The deadly hunt, which occurred in August 2020, began when an adult female polar bear went after an adult reindeer that attempted to escape the predator by swimming in the Isbjørnhamna bay.

However, it took just a little over a minute for the polar bear to catch up to its prey, kill it and then drag it to shore where the bear ripped it apart for dinner.

The team believes  this behavior is not only due to a loss of sea-ice, but the Arctic has seen an uptick in reindeer population over the past three decades and they are more accessible to the endangered predators.

The reindeer population increased in 1973 when the animals gained federal protection. 

The deadly hunt began when an adult female polar bear went after an adult reindeer that attempted to escape its predator by swimming in the Isbjørnhamna bay

‘Pre-2000 sources state that polar bears do not attack Svalbard reindeer,’ the researchers wrote in the paper published in Polar Biology.

‘This report is the first description and documentation of the complete course of a polar bear hunt for adult reindeer in Hornsund, SW Spitsbergen, and also of the bear’s hunting behavior and the reindeer’s response.’ 

The paper also includes at least 12 reports made from bystanders, who saw bears hunting or eating reindeer, which the team says is evidence the attacks are becoming more frequent.

The documented event was captured by researchers on August 21, 2020, but the team is just now releasing the footage.

The polar bear was spotted about 328 feet from the Polish Polar Station, which sparked several scientists to walk outside and take a better look at the wild animal.

Biologists at the Polish Polar Station, located on Norway¿s Svalbard archipelago, released the first footage of a polar bear hunting and eating a reindeer.

Biologists at the Polish Polar Station, located on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, released the first footage of a polar bear hunting and eating a reindeer.

The bear rushed toward the shore and dove into the frigid waters after its potential meal, reaching the reindeer about 82 feet from the shoreline

Then the bear grabbed the rear of the reindeer with its claws, allowing it to bring its prey to a halt, and then climbed on top to submerge the reindeer

The bear rushed toward the shore and dove into the frigid waters after its potential meal, reaching the reindeer about 82 feet from the shoreline

They noticed the bear walking toward the shoreline of the Isbjørnhamna bay, where approximately half a dozen reindeer were grazing.

Most of the reindeer scattered, but one was caught in the bear’s sights and opted to risk it in the bay – rather than being caught on land.

The bear rushed toward the shore and dove into the frigid waters after its potential meal, reaching the reindeer about 82 feet from the shoreline.

The bear then grabbed the rear of the reindeer with its claws, allowing it to bring its prey to a halt, and then climbed on top to submerge the reindeer.

It took just a little over one minute for the polar bear to catch up to its prey, kill it and then drag it to shore where the bear ripped it apart for dinner

It took just a little over one minute for the polar bear to catch up to its prey, kill it and then drag it to shore where the bear ripped it apart for dinner

After the fight to the death, the bear dragged the reindeer¿s lifeless body ashore where it began ripping it apart for dinner

After the fight to the death, the bear dragged the reindeer’s lifeless body ashore where it began ripping it apart for dinner

‘Prey and attacker struggled for a while, parts of each animal appearing alternately on the surface,’ the authors wrote in the study.

‘Then, the bear gripped the reindeer’s neck from below and dispatched it within about a minute.

‘The bear then turned the reindeer over, submerging it repeatedly for about 15 min, even though it was already dead.’

Pictured are images taken by biologists who witnessed the deadly attack

Pictured are images taken by biologists who witnessed the deadly attack

After the fight to the death, the bear dragged the reindeer’s lifeless body ashore where it began ripping it apart for dinner.

The bystanders then saw the bear cover the leftover remains with rocks, assuming the move was to ward off other predators, and then head off to a nearby area to sleep for 12 hours before returning to its feast.

However, foxes and birds fed on the remains while the bear slept.

‘By noon the next day, the bear alternately lay near the carcass or went to eat the leftovers. In all, it consumed 80% of the reindeer’s flesh,’ the team wrote in the study.

WHY DO POLAR BEARS NEED ICE TO SURVIVE?

Loss of ice due to climate change has a direct impact on the ability of polar bears to feed and survive.

The bears need platforms of ice to reach their prey of ringed and bearded seals. Some sea ice lies over more productive hunting areas than others.

Like other predators at the top of the food chain, polar bears have a low reproductive rate. One or two cubs are born in midwinter and stay with their mother for two years. 

Consequently, females breed only every three years. The bears don’t reproduce until they are five or six years old.

From late fall until spring, mothers with new cubs den in snowdrifts on land or on pack ice. They emerge from their dens, with the new cubs, in the spring to hunt seals from floating sea ice.

Simply put, if there isn’t enough sea ice, seals can’t haul out on the ice, and polar bears can’t continue to hunt. 



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