Kaktovik whale hunt remains draw record polar bear numbers

September 24, 2012 

A sow polar bear and her cubs eat the remains of a whale at the bone dump outside of Kaktovik, Alaska, on the Beaufort Sea, in this undated file photo.

SCOTT SCHLIEBE / U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Polar bears have long gathered near Kaktovik, on Alaska's North Slope, to dine on the remains of whale carcasses left over from village hunts. But an unusually large congregation of bears early this month -- as many as 80 counted in a single day, reports Alaska Dispatch -- has scientists wondering if it's a sign the bears are having bad hunting luck because of global warming and the summer shrinking of the polar ice cap. From Alaska Dispatch:

Karyn Rode, a wildlife biologist with the USGS, said that bears will arrive in Kaktovik at various points in the summer, indicating that some may be making longer swims as the sea ice melt continues.

"Bears that have been onshore feeding on the whale remains become very dirty," she said. "Then the residents (of the community) will see new, white bears, which indicates that they're just arriving on shore." ...

She said that of all the bears observed, there were a few that looked skinny. But most appeared to be in "average" or better health.

Read more at Alaska Dispatch: Rotting whale meat lures record 80 polar bears to Kaktovik

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