Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea have begun to cannibalize one another according to a recent study in the online publication Polar Biology. The polar bears’ main food source in the area, ringed seals, are accessible only across ice shelves. Global climate change has melted these shelves, cutting off the bears from their food and forcing them to turn on one another.
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Polar bears often kill their own kind as a form of population control, territorial dominance and reproductive advantages, but killing each other for food had rarely been witnessed before the study was released. The study also cited the first example of a mother polar bear being attacked and killed for food in her den, shortly after she had given birth.
“During 24 years of research on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region of northern Alaska and 34 years in northwestern Canada, we have not seen other incidents of polar bears stalking, killing, and eating other polar bears,” the scientists said in the study.
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“This is not a Coca-Cola commercial,” said Deborah Williams of Alaska Conservation Solutions.
Some environmentalists are predicting the disappearance of polar bears completely by the end of the century, due to global warming.