Monday, September 22, 2014

On eating and being eaten

The changing diet of polar bears, with a new emphasis on the eggs of snow geese:
David Iles, a graduate student at Utah State University, who has been working at La PĂ©rouse Bay for several years, set out cameras to observe goose nests and caught the bears in the act. He now has 40 cameras set up over a stretch of tundra. They take photographs every two minutes and shoot a burst of 30 images when an animal walks in front of the camera.

In addition to capturing photographs of bears consuming eggs last season, the cameras caught cranes, wolves, eagles and foxes eating. “Everything seems to love eggs out here,” he said.

One goose or one nest may not seem like much. But polar bears are gluttons. Dr, Rockwell described one case in which a bear ate about 1,200 eggs — of eider ducks, in this case — in four days. He said Dr. Gormezano had calculated that a clutch of four eggs would amount to 825 calories, the equivalent of one and a half Big Macs. Three hundred four-egg clutches would be 247,500 calories, or about 10 percent of a bear’s yearly nutritional needs.

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