Emaciated polar bear spotted far from usual range Sept 12, 2012 3:42:01 GMT -9
Post by sarus on Sept 12, 2012 3:42:01 GMT -9
Emaciated polar bear spotted far from usual range
“This one was in a real sad state of starvation.”
Nunavik Tourism executive director Allen Gordon, photographer Heiko Wittenborn
and Wye Yoshida were traveling by jet boat Sept. 4 on the Caniapiscau River to
Manitou Gorge, in search of new fishing spots for Nunavik Tourism, when they
spotted a polar bear on the shore.
The polar bear was an unexpected sight 160 kilometres inland from Ungava Bay,
an area usually known as black bear country.
The polar bear was visibly malnourished, with its fur hanging from its bones.
"The moment we saw it just standing near the shore of the river we knew right
away that it was unusually very thin and bony. The polar bear is a powerful,
majestic symbol of the Arctic, and this one was in a real sad state of starvation,"
The polar bear appeared to be following the scent of a porcupine, which had
retreated to the safety of a nearby tree.
"The bear looked very weak, standing still for some time just looking at us and
then laid down to rest," Gordon said.
Three years ago, a polar bear with two cubs hung around Gordon's outfitting camp,
Gordon Lake Hunting Camp, located about 150 km west of Kuujjuaq for a few weeks,
feeding off caribou carcasses in the area.
But Gordon said he had never seen a polar bear that far south before.
After returning from the trip, Gordon sent photos of the emaciated polar bear to
Bill Doidge, director of the Nunavik Research Centre, who determined that the
polar bear was a sub-adult female.
Wittenborn also showed the photos of the starving polar bear to some people
in Kangisualujjuaq. Many told him they were disturbed to see the pitiful state
of the polar bear since they encounter a lot of healthy polar bears along the coast
of eastern Ungava Bay.
Wittenborn has taken thousands of photos of Nunavik wildlife over the years, but
said he can't shake the haunting image of the polar bear out of his head as he
goes to sleep at night.
"It's so sad to see a polar bear in this condition," Wittenborn said.
The poor condition of that polar bear would raises doubt about whether polar bears
could be successful hunting land animals if they can no longer hunt seals and other
marine mammals out on the ice.
Last week, Erik W. Born, a senior researcher with the Nature Institute of Greenland,
suggested in an interview with a Danish newspaper that polar bears might be able
to hunt musk ox and other land animals if global warming continues to erode sea ice.
"The polar bear is a brown bear that has adapted to life in the Arctic, said
Anne-Marie Bjerg, an environmentalist with the World Wildlife Foundation.
"As the climate changes and the ice melts, the bear can alter its behaviour
and choice of food. It can also possibly hunt more on land and learn to catch
reindeer and musk ox."
The polar bear's white colour could be a problem when hunting inland, Berg noted.
The starving polar bear caught by Wittenborn's camera is not the only polar bear
spotted inland this summer. Another polar bear was seen far from its usual home
on the Beaufort Sea, traveling down towards Fort McPherson in the Northwest
This starving polar bear was in pursuit of a porcupine when Nunavik Tourism
executive director Allen Gordon and photographer Heiko Wittenborn saw it
as they were on Caniapiscau River about 100 kilometres inland from
(PHOTO BY HEIKO WITTENBORN, COURTESY OF NUNAVIK TOURISM)