Greenland’s polar bears hunt without sea-ice | Sunday Observer

Greenland’s polar bears hunt without sea-ice

8 January, 2023

Although polar bears are primarily land-based predators, they are also adept swimmers in the ocean. However, in Greenland, a population of bears has been observed hunting away from the sea and living around freshwater. 

This new colony relies on glacial ice (freshwater icy rivers) to hunt rather than utilising seawater ice as is customary for the species. Southeastern Greenland is remote and isolated, so this bear population is considered to be distinct.

This group of bears’ preferred hunting method is to lie await and ambush seals as they surface to breathe. Polar bears, numbering around 20,000 all over the arctic periphery from Russia, Canada to Alaska and Greenland but are absent from Iceland, having existed in Britain historically. Their preferred quarry are ringed seals and bearded seals. But they are also known to hunt walruses and even reindeer when the chance arises. 

The latest turn of events holds that polar bears are highly adaptable. This is possibly a glimpse into how they survived during warm spells or when the split between polar and brown bears happened in the evolutionary chain thousands of years ago. 

Greenland is the world’s largest island, with over 830,000 square miles and yet it is not as easy to spot bears as in Canada or the US, where tourists have had more luck. The indigenous Inuit call it nanuk and have hunted them for generations for meat and fur. The bear also features heavily in Inuit mythology and the Inuit clergy or shamans deemed them a mighty figure worthy of respect.

Even though Christmas decorations often show polar bears and penguins side by side, this never happens in nature because penguins live in the South Pole.