Global Warming: Polar Bears Cannibalize In Churchill, Manitoba
Due to global warming conditions, polar bears in the Churchill area of Manitoba have begun to cannibalize. Polar bears in the Arctic region have an increasingly smaller hunting space and less ice to hunt from due to the thinning ice caused by global warming.
The polar bears use large slabs of ice to move out of the Hudson Bay area and hunt seals, but they are unable to do so this year as it isn't cold enough for the ice to thicken. The ice hasn't frozen yet so the polar bears are unable to access one of their main sources of food: seals. This overall thinning of the ice has caused grown polar bears to cannibalize the younger cubs in particular. Scientist Andy Derocher offers some insights on the process that has lead the polar bears to cannibalize:
"The cannibalism events are really just a manifestation of the effects of global warming on the bears," Derocher said. "It's an act of desperation; it's what they do when they can't find something else to eat.
"The rub here is that they've now been forced to sit on land for an extra month . . . The animals are winding down on the stored body fat that they have."
While Polar bears do have a history of killing their young in the springtime during mating season, it is unusual for them to kill their own in the winter. These cases of polar bear cannibalism that are currently taking place are definitely unrelated to their springtime habits. Scientists believe they are simply hungry and have no other food source.
This new behavior is thought to be less instinctual, and more a drive to keep food in their bellies during a mild winter where long-distance swimming and hunting difficulties have made it tough for the bears to survive
At this point there are four confirmed cases of polar bears that have cannibalized in the Churchill, Manitoba region. Unfortunately, there are more possible cases that still need to be investigated and the number of cannibalizing bears will likely increase with no change of conditions in the Arctic region.
The polar bears would normally use multi-layered ice to move around and hunt, but they are now restricted to small patches of this ice surrounded by thin patches that connot hold their weight.