While polar bears normally prefer to dine on seals and other marine mammals, it appears that they aren’t opposed to some scrambled eggs. Since the warming climate in the arctic is causing sea ice to melt earlier and earlier, bears aren’t able to hunt seals for as long as they used to (they need the sea-ice to ambush seals at breathing holes and in pupping dens). Instead bears are being forced on shore during ice-free periods, and they are ending up in some of the areas where seabirds and seaducks nest. So what does a bear do in a bird colony? They snack on any eggs they can find – and since polar bears have very big appetites, they can eat their way through entire colonies in a matter of hours or days!
In collaboration with researchers at Environment Canada, Carleton University and the University of Windsor, I worked along the southern coast of Baffin Island this past summer to study the influence that polar bears are having on one particular seaduck, the common eider. In addition to studying this ‘novel’ predator-prey system in the wild, I will be building computer models to try to predict how climate change will influence bear-eider dynamics in the future.