Picture instead,” writes Daniel Grossman in a post for Yale Climate Connections, “a cream-colored bear loping on land, across tundra, and along the pebbled shores.” Forced to venture ashore in search of sustenance, this hypothetical bear is fighting off hunger by snacking on bird eggs.
The image is fully grounded in fact. As Grossman notes, polar bears have increasingly been observed marauding through colonies of seabirds as they seek alternate sources of sustenance in the absence of sea ice.
A 2010 study, for example, documented four cases of polar bears eating snow goose eggs, and the chicks and eggs of thick-billed murres, in Arctic Canada – with the bears in some instances even clambering up cliff faces to reach the nests.
And just last year, a team of European researchers reported that, in Greenland and the Svalbard Archipelago, bear raids on colonies of common eiders, glaucous gulls and barnacle geese, rarely if ever seen before 2000, are now commonplace.
photo: Kiernan Mulvaney