Polar bear washes up in Scotland

Dave Sexton with the polar bearFrom Wildlife Extra:

Exhausted polar bear washed up on Isle of Mull

01/04/2010 15:54:15

But isn’t there something special about 1 April?

RSPB Mull Officer, Dave Sexton, got the shock of his life while out on a routine wildlife survey earlier today, Wednesday 31st March 2010.

“We rounded a headland on the west coast of the island and saw a large, white shape lying by some rocks in the distance. As we got closer, I was staggered to see that it was a polar bear. At first I felt sure it was dead, but then I realised it was still breathing. Scarily, it opened its eyes as we got next to it, but didn’t show any other signs of moving. We grabbed a few photos and went off to get help.”

On his return an hour later, Dave was amazed to find that the bear had disappeared. “We couldn’t find any trace of it. Luckily we have the photos, or I doubt that anyone would believe us. Having spent many years protecting threatened wildlife, I just hope this polar bear is going to be ok.”

Swim from Greenland

Islanders are now searching for the missing bear, which is thought to have drifted across to the island on an ice floe. The nearest polar bear populations are found on Greenland and on the Svalbard archipelago, midway between Norway and the North Pole. In recent years other visitors to Mull from the high Arctic have included a bearded seal and two northern bottle-nosed whales.

Scientists believe the colder winter and lower than average sea temperatures this year may have allowed the ice floe to remain frozen for longer, thereby assisting the polar bear’s passage.

This is believed to be the first time a live wild polar bear has been observed in UK territorial waters since before the last Ice Age. However, bear bones found in the famous prehistoric caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland are believed to be from a polar bear.

The coastguard, police and Arctic marine mammal experts are now searching for the animal. The public have been warned not to approach the bear if they see it, as it may be hungry after its long journey.

Our polar bear April Fool certainly captured a lot of attention and fooled quite a few people in the process: here.

See also about white storks and football in South Africa …

In Search of the Grizzly (if Any Are Left): here.

3 thoughts on “Polar bear washes up in Scotland

  1. Polar bears take up rock-climbing to find eggs

    By Jane George, Nunatsiaq News

    April 29, 2010

    Hungry polar bears can cause extensive damage to snow goose and thick-billed murre colonies when they come ashore before the birds’ eggs have hatched.

    Hungry polar bears can cause extensive damage to snow goose and thick-billed murre colonies when they come ashore before the birds’ eggs have hatched.
    Photograph by: Canadian Classic Tours, Canwest News Service

    IQALUIT, Nunavut — Polar bears are ready to climb steep bird cliffs in search of food, say wildlife biologists, who suggest recent sightings of rock-climbing, egg-eating bears in northwestern Hudson Bay are linked to the retreat of sea ice in that region.

    Hungry polar bears can cause extensive damage to snow goose and thick-billed murre colonies when they come ashore before the birds’ eggs have hatched, said wildlife biologist Paul Smith.

    The marauding polar bears stuff themselves with huge numbers of eggs, Smith said in an interview from Ottawa.

    This pillage of bird colonies appears to be a new phenomenon. That’s because there have been few recorded observations of polar bears doing this until recently— and likely snow geese and murres wouldn’t nest in colonies if polar bears always wiped them out, he said.

    In 2004 on southern Southampton Island, a well-nourished adult female wandered from nest to nest in a snow goose colony, scooping up the entire contents of each nest, noted Smith and co-authors in a paper published in a recent edition of Polar Biology.

    The polar bear stayed in the area for a few days, wiping out some 400 nests.

    “Usually the bears eat the whole eggs, shell and all. Sometimes they’ll crush them and lick up the goo, but they mostly just gobble up the eggs,” Smith said.

    “What you’ll see across the tundra is they leave piles (of their feces) like giant oil slicks of black goo.”

    In another incident from June 2006 on Coats Island, also cited in Polar Biology, biologists counted five polar bears in a goose nesting area, where they proceeded to eat the entire contents of each nest, before walking on to the next.

    The polar bears appeared to recognize the scent of the nests, several metres from each other, and searched them out.

    Within a week, they managed to finish off eggs from most of the 350 snow geese nests.

    “You can imagine the number of eggs you can fit in a bear — one bear can easily consume the eggs from hundreds of geese. If this were to happen across the North, it could be significant,” Smith said.

    A lone polar bear climbed onto cliff ledges used by nesting thick-billed murres and ate all the murre eggs — and chicks — around in two other incidents on Coats Island from July 2000 and July 2003, notes the Polar Biology paper.

    Eggs have always been around in these cliffs in the past at the same time as polar bears, Smith said.

    “We never saw bears eat these eggs, so it implies they aren’t so keen to climb the cliffs unless they have to,” he said.

    The polar bears’ new habits are likely linked to their trouble in capturing prey out in the open water.

    Polar bears usually draw on their stored fat throughout the ice-free period.

    If they’re hungry, they may also feed on grasses, marine algae, berries, carrion, remains from human hunting, as well as occasional caribou, fish, rodents and birds.

    The willingness of polar bears to tackle cliffs shows the lengths to which they may go to supplement their diet during a longer ice-free season, conclude Smith and his co-authors in their paper.

    This egg-eating by polar bears wouldn’t happen further to the north where polar bears can still spend the summer on drifting ice and don’t arrive on shore until after the birds have hatched, Smith said.

    As for being a nifty adaptation to a changing climate conditions, egg and chick eating won’t take polar bears very far, he said, because it takes too many eggs to fill a bear— and they would eventually run out of birds.

    © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service



  2. Pingback: Rare hummingbird photographed for first time ever | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Polar bears and glaucous gulls threatened by pollution | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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