Iceland Polar Bears May Have Been Escaping Conflict Skip to content

Iceland Polar Bears May Have Been Escaping Conflict

A research of the carcasses of the two polar bears that were killed in Iceland last year has concluded that they may have swam to Iceland from Greenland to escape conflict with other polar bears. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the first bear’s arrival.

Greenland where the polar bears came from. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Karl Skírnisson, a biologist at the University of Iceland’s Institute for Experimental Pathology in Keldur, was in charge of the research and a report on its conclusions will appear in the upcoming issue of Náttúrufraedingurinn science journal.

According to Morgunbladid, Skírnisson’s studies are, among other items, based on the examination of age circles of the mineral and bone tissue of the polar bears’ teeth.

The first polar bear, a male, was 23 years old, and it is seldom that polar bears grow any older than that. The female polar bear, which swam ashore a few days later, was considerably younger, probably 15 years old, although she had also surpassed the average age of polar bears.

Research of the female bear’s teeth show that she gave birth to and raised offspring on three occasions; the layer of bone tissue in the teeth thickens slowly during the years when cubs follow their mothers. Polar bears usually have two cubs at a time, although having one or three at a time is also possible.

This is the first time that the lives of polar bears have been described by studying their teeth using this method, Skírnisson claimed.

Both animals were located at the edge of the area where the species lives when they swam away from Greenland’s shores.

This indicates, in Skírnisson’s view, that they were attempting to avoid struggle with stronger animals—the social system of polar bears is notoriously ruthless—and these two bears were no longer useful for the stock.

The female bear was on the brink of death when she swam ashore in Iceland. She was very skinny and did not attempt to search for food and there was also water in her lungs. The male bear was also in poor physical condition.

After the first bear was killed, attempts were made to save the female, but the rescue mission was not successful and the she was shot and killed as well.

Click here to read more about polar bears in Iceland story.

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