Washington, Dec 16 (ANI): New calculations have shown that eating goose eggs may help polar bears weather climate change, as it would provide the animals with an alternative source of food.
Polar bears, Ursus maritimus, are listed as a threatened species under the United States' Endangered Species Act and are classified as "vulnerable with declining populations" under IUCN's Red List.
The new calculations show that changes in the timing of sea-ice breakup and of snow goose nesting near the western Hudson Bay could provide at least some polar bears with an alternative source of food.
"Over 40 years, six subadult male bears were seen among snow goose nests, and four of them were sighted after the year 2000," said Robert Rockwell, a research associate in Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History and a Professor of Biology at City College at City University of New York.
"I've seen a subadult male eat eider duck eggs whole or press its nose against the shell, break it, and eat the contents. This is similar to a different research group's observations of polar bears eating Barnacle Goose eggs on Svalbard, an island near Norway," he added.
Most of the Arctic is sea ice from which bears hunt seals, although the breakup of sea ice over the summer forces some bears to move north, to pack ice, or onto land.
More often, it is subadult males that are pushed to these less ideal conditions, where they live, in part, off stored fat reserves.
When bears switch to the tundra in some areas, they may enter the nesting grounds of snow geese. Goose eggs and developing embryos are a highly nutritious source of food to opportunistic foragers.
Although geese populations were in decline in the early 1900s, the population rebounded and expanded.
There are now too many geese for the Arctic to support in the summer, mainly because their over-wintering habitat has increased to cover the northern plains, where they eat waste corn and forage in rice fields.
Polar bear and snow geese populations come into contact in the Hudson Bay. Here, some bears routinely live on land for 4-5 months of the year, subsisting on fat reserves.
The new research shows that the effects of climate change will bring additional sources of food as the movement of both populations begins earlier each spring. (ANI)