Skip to main content

30th December 2022

12 Days of Christmas: Six Geese-a-Eaten

What is a polar bear’s favourite snack? Geese, apparently! Does new research show geese have become a summer treat for polar bears, but are they enough to preserve the dwindling polar bear population?
12 Days of Christmas: Six Geese-a-Eaten
Photo: Pure Julia @ Unsplash

Through the analysis of polar bear poop, ecologists have found that polar bears are eating fewer snow geese and their eggs.

During the winter months, polar bears hunt seals on the vast sea ice, fattening up on the plentiful marine bounty. In May, when the sun comes out and melts this ice, the polar bears are forced onto land. Over the summer, the bears must preserve their energy stores to survive the long six months until the next freeze.

Climate Change

In 2021, the average global surface temperature was 0.82oC warmer than in the 20th century. With summer temperatures increasing every year, larger ice areas are breaking up, pushing the polar bears deeper into human habitats.

Polar bears currently migrate onto land three weeks earlier than they did in the 1980s, meaning they must survive longer with limited food resources.

Special menu items

Currently, only female and cub polar bears have been observed chasing geese, an activity which can require more energy than is gained from such a small portion. This indicates the energy cost is not worth it for larger male bears who can successfully take down caribou, a type of reindeer.

As polar bears are forced to live off the land for a larger proportion of the year, the pressure on these food supplies increases. In the near future, we may see male polar bears forced to compete for geese.

Protecting polar bear habitats

Sea ice loss from climate change has led polar bears to be classed as a vulnerable species. The most significant population loss has been found in the Hudson Bay area of Canada, where 60% of polar bears live.

Increased commercial activities and conflicts with people have also contributed to the loss of polar bears from this region. Specific tourism activities venture out into the remote habitat to ‘see the polar bears’ on snow buggies.

Protecting the polar bear’s natural habitat on sea ice and land can only truly be achieved by combating climate change.

Freya Anderson

Freya Anderson

Chemistry BSc from the University of Liverpool, currently studying an MSc in Science and Health Communications at the University of Manchester

More Coverage

Long COVID: Can improved sleep cure breathlessness?

A joint study led by The University of Manchester and Leicester has linked disturbed sleep to breathlessness in long COVID patients and proposes possible treatment solutions.

The power of stars: Manchester and its energy revolution

Manchester has long been making waves in the nuclear energy industry – find out how the scientific namesakes of university buildings set in motion a movement towards green energy.

First private Moon landing attempt fails

ispace’s new spacecraft made it within touching distance of the lunar surface, but a last-minute malfunction dashed their hopes of a successful moon landing

AI: Friend or foe?

What is the potential impact of artificial intelligence on the job market, and should students be worried about their future job prospects in light of AI advancements?