The moment a polar bear hunts and kills a reindeer is caught on film for the first time
Dramatic footage of a polar bear hunting and killing a full grown reindeer has been captured for the first time.
The apex predator can be seen swimming after its prey before killing it and dragging it back to land.
The polar bear then rips the poor animal to shreds on the shoreline.
Biologists stationed at the Polish Polar Station, located on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, captured the female bear stalking and killing the reindeer.
Usually polar bears hunt seals across the Arctic’s sea ice during the winter, but a number of factors have led them to seek new prey.
At the same time, the Arctic has seen an increase in reindeer population over the past three decades. Since 1972, reindeers have been granted federal protection by Norway’s government and their numbers have been growing.
Even so, polar bears have not been known to hunt reindeers.
‘Pre-2000 sources state that polar bears do not attack Svalbard reindeer,’ the researchers wrote in the paper published in Polar Biology.
‘This report is the first description and documentation of the complete course of a polar bear hunt for adult reindeer in Hornsund, SW Spitsbergen, and also of the bear’s hunting behavior and the reindeer’s response.’
The footage was captured by researchers on August 21, 2020, but the team is just now releasing the film.
They say the polar bear was spotted about 328 feet from the station, causing several scientists to walk outside and take a better look at the wild animal.
They noticed the bear walking towards the Isbjørnhamna bay, where reindeer were grazing. Most of the herd scattered, but one attempted to escape into the bay rather than being chased down by the bear on land.
The bear rushed down and dove into the frigid waters and caught the reindeer in a matter of minutes.
‘Prey and attacker struggled for a while, parts of each animal appearing alternately on the surface,’ the authors wrote in the study.
‘Then, the bear gripped the reindeer’s neck from below and dispatched it within about a minute.
‘The bear then turned the reindeer over, submerging it repeatedly for about 15 min, even though it was already dead.’
Once the bear had dragged the body ashore and torn it apart, it covered the reminder of the reindeer’s body with rocks. Onlookers assumed this was to protect it from other snooping predators while the bear slept.
‘By noon the next day, the bear alternately lay near the carcass or went to eat the leftovers. In all, it consumed 80% of the reindeer’s flesh,’ the team wrote in the study.