Kaktovik polar bear photos, again no “starving” bears

A Southern Beaufort female with cubs, from the fall of 2007. Note how fat they all are.

A Southern Beaufort female with cubs, from the fall of 2007.
Note the non-starving condition.

Twenty-one amazing photos of polar bears feasting on the remains of a bowhead whale carcass outside of Kaktovik, Alaska, taken by wildlife photographer Michal Tyl, have been posted by the UK Daily Mail (December 12, 2013): Now that’s what you call a spare rib! Pack of bloody-faced polar bears spend day and night stripping a beached whale to its bones.”  Have a look and see if you can spot any “starving” bears! 

What you will see is the relative size of the bears: notice how much larger males are than females, how small cubs-of-the-year are relative to big males. Oh, and notice all the big fat polar bear butts. I can’t include any of the photos here because of copyright rules (the one above is from 2007) but I have included a map showing the location of Kaktovik, a quote from the article, and a link to my previous post on Kaktovik bears, which has a wealth of background information.

Figure 1. Kaktovik, Alaska, from Google maps.

Figure 1. Kaktovik, Alaska, from Google maps.

The photos were presumably taken earlier this year, although the Daily Mail story doesn’t actually give a date. A hint is given, however, in the comment that the whale carcass was the “second of the season.” A story earlier this year included photos taken at the end of September by the Mail on Sunday which were said to be of bears on the last (third) whale of the season, so it appears these photos must have been taken in early to mid-September.

From the Mail Online story:

The polar bears who come to Kaktovik in autumn swim from free-flowing ice further north and have learned that there is always something left for them from the whale once the Eskimos have removed all the “good pieces”.

Mr Tyl added: ‘We went in a small group of four and came to see an amazing spectacle.It was a feast of over 20 bears of all sizes, from small cubs to large males. They were all dirty from mud and blood, chewing, cracking bones, squelching and growling.

‘The larger bears were easily dealing with huge whale ribs as if they didn’t weigh anything.

‘Bear sows were letting their cubs squeeze in next to male bears, although this would never be possible during the day.”

‘Their only goal was to get as fat as possible, quickly. Some of them could hardly drag their bellies, since this was their second whale of the year and they were already full after finishing the leftovers from the first one.’ [my bold]

For more on Kaktovik bears, see this post Polar bears at Kaktovik, Alaska not stranded due to retreating ice” which includes a sea ice map, and links to other posts and photo sets, including a Mail on Sunday article that was published at the end of September. Enjoy!

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