When a bowhead whale washed ashore at Wrangel Island in Russia, the polar bears were ready. Between 150 and 230 bears gathered to eat the carcass, and tourists captured the experience on camera. As there are around 26,000 of the animals on Earth, almost one percent of the world’s polar bears, according to Gizmodo, assembled for the feast.
The polar bears dined on the whale carcass on Wrangel Island. While polar bears feeding on whales may not be that strange, Gizmodo points out what was unique was that so many people were present to witness the event. A tourist ship passed by as the bears were feasting.
Heritage Expeditions founder Rodney Russ said his group counted more than 150 polar bears, while Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve said conservative estimates put the number of polar bears at more than 230. Bears of all ages and sexes were present.
According to a Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve news release, scientists were aboard the tourist ship, and an international scientific group monitoring bear populations in Chukotka – where Wrangel Island is located – and Alaska were told of the event.
Russ wrote in a blog post, “You had to live it to believe it, even now there are people pinching themselves to make sure it really happened…there are no words to describe it.”
Polar bears aren’t endangered, but are listed as vulnerable, a step below endangered, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said some populations are stable, some appear to be on the rise, and others are decreasing. The loss of sea ice could seriously impact the animals. WWF said global polar bear numbers could fall 30 percent by 2050.
Images via A. Gruzdev