Polar bears dine on the severed head of a bowhead whale in Kaktovik (map),Alaska, on September 7. Left behind by traditional Inupiat hunters, whale remains this year attracted up to 80 bears a day to the village—a record, according to the Alaska Dispatch news site.
Having hunted whales annually for about 50 years in Kaktovik, Inupiat typically leave some meat specifically for the polar bears, according to the Alaska Dispatch’s Loren Holmes. The predators have learned to arrive at North Slope Eskimo communities just before the hunt and whet their appetites by gnawing last year’s whale bones, Holmes said.
Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bear International, said he’s not surprised. Polar bears “are not dumb animals,” Amstrup said. “They know the time of year that the meat starts to show up on the beach.”
(See National Geographic magazine pictures of Alaska’s North Slope.)