Global Warming causing Cannibalism

by John Goetz

OK, I know the catchy headline and picture of Hannibal Lecter got you worrying a little about that neighbor of yours who is stocking up on fava beans and chianti. But the headline is misleading, as is this one posted yesterday (September 23) at cnn.com:

Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks

By Marsha Walton, CNN

I was looking for a good, sensational read. I really thought the article would be about the many ways in which global warming was causing cannibalism amongst polar bears in the arctic. I searched for the heart-wrenching stories about how increasing temperatures forced mom to bop pops on the head when he was not looking and toss daddy-kibble to the kids to keep them from starving to death. Instead, the story began as follows:

Summer is over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s been another chilling season for researchers who study Arctic sea ice.

“It’s definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. Arctic sea ice is usually 1 to 3 meters, or as much as 9 feet thick. It grows during autumn and winter and shrinks in the spring and summer.

Scientists have monitored sea ice conditions for about 50 years with the help of satellites. Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.

“It is the second lowest on record. … If anything, it is reinforcing the long-term trend. We are still losing the ice cover at a rate of 10 percent per decade now, and that is quite an increase from five years ago,” Meier said. “We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic.”

Huh? This was not at all what I expected. Where was the blood and gore?

Then I noticed something in the upper left part of the page. Those rascals at CNN got me again!

It was a CNN Planet in Peril story!  Sensationalist journalism at its best, but without all the fact-checking of the National Enquirer.

So did the story ever mention polar bear cannibalism? You betcha, right near the end:

“The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears,” according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don’t have access to their usual food sources.”

Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.

Hey, what was news in 2004 is still headline-worthy today, right?

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Dave Dodd

But now it’s 2008 and and AGW seems to be wimping out. This guy has written some FLAMING AGW support articles previously. Seems to be squirming himself out of the corner he wrote himself into. Looks like the rats are beginning to jump ship as AGW continues to be uncooperative:
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/09/20/on_climate_who_will_lead_by_example/

Bill in Vigo

I just wonder if any of the reporters went close enough to find if the bears were thin and Bone. I do suspect that there has been a little grand standing here as most folks don’t get to visit the arctic at any time much less on the taxpayer dime. I would still consult the people that know about the bears and remember that we have more ice this time this year than this time last year. time will tell and it may well be embarrassing for some of the Knowledgeable folks. the rest of us dummies will have to just slog along in the snow and slush to see what is happening.
Bill Derryberry

In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.
And that, folks, proves global warming.

An Inquirer

I shudder to think how gullible or easily misled we as a people are. Over 40 years ago, I learned that cannabilism was frequent among polar bears. Without some systematic study, I am not convinced by a statement of increased reports in recent years of polar bears attacking each other. It could very well be that there we are bound to get more reports when polar bears are getting the attention that they are getting now. There also could be an issue of population growth of polar bears. More bears within a given space — more chance for cannibalism. (Of course, some bears could try to migrate to Iceland — oops, they get shot on sight there!)

Mike Bryant

“The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears,” according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney…
Those lawyers know polar bears.

crosspatch

And polar bear populations are at record high levels. Maybe that is why they are having to do that. Maybe these record high levels of polar bears have eaten all the seals in the area and have to resort to cannibalism.
With a lack of ice, the seals will come to shore, where the bears are. With no ice to forage on, the bears bunch up on land too.
The last interglacial was warmer than this one has been. There was less polar ice than during this interglacial. Yet we still have seals, and we still have bears.

Martin Elphinstone

More shrill hyperbole from the popular press and, alas, some poor science published in the journal Polar Biology. It looks to me as if the CNN doco may have used as its source this piece of research:
http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/rsrc/scientists/amstrupetal2006cannibalism.pdf
Trouble is, this is a mere description of cannibalism and an association with poor condition in the bears , not a study of it’s causes. The scientists concerned, to use their words,
“hypothesize that nutritional stresses related to
the longer ice-free seasons that have occurred in the
Beaufort Sea in recent years may have led to the cannibalism
incidents we observed in 2004”
The trouble is there is no data whatsoever to support or refute their hypothesis and the publication is merely a report of two things: 1. the actual cannnibalism events; and 2. the condition of the bears involved. Furthermore, the authors acknowledge that intraspecific predation, i.e cannibalism, occurs in brown, black and polar bears. Looking a bit further into the subject area reveals many earlier reports, e.g.
http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic52-3-307.pdf
(and references within) back to 1977. It seems intraspecific predation is likely a mechanism which regulates population size appropriate to the location concerned. Other reports in the popular press suggesting that polar bear population size has generally been increasing in many parts of the Arctic would tally with reports of cannibalism and suggest that these populations may be self-regulating in response to recent population increases. Or at least this is an equally likely hypothesis to explain the data and that these individual cases are not necessarily anything to do with reductions in Arctic sea ice or, by entension, northern hemisphere warming.

henry

“Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.”
Going from NO reports to ONE report is an increase in reports, right?
It also said the bear broke in and killed the female. Doesn’t say it ATE the female…
Next, it will be stories like this:
“Reporters are seeing increased reports of starving AGW scientists attacking, and feeding on one another’s data in recent years. In one documented 2010 incident in Pennsylvania, a male scientist broke into a female’s lab and emptied her archives…”

AnyMouse

“increasing reports” means there have been earlier reports. More reports can also mean more people reporting, which might only mean more pens or mail service. Or tourists.

When I was growing up on the farm (in the 70’s), we had organic, free range chickens, back before it was a cool thing to do. I regularly, if infrequently, saw the chickens attack and sometimes kill the weak ones among them. I also found them cannibalizing dead chickens.
Since in the 70’s, the consensus was the coming ice age, does that mean global cooling causes chickens to go cannibal?

Johnnyb

I remember watching a documentary that showed a male polar bear stalking a female and her cubs with the express purpose of eating them. It did not say anything about climate change in that documentary, but the reason that the female could not escape was because she was caught out on open ice without access to the sea.
Anyhow, why should we care so much about a race of bears that cares so little for the survival of their kind that they eat their own children and females?

Jeff B.

When the empirical evidence is not cooperating, the AGW folks adjust data, and similarly, their media foils recycle headlines.

Something’s been eating at me. Does CNN stand for Cannibal News Network? Also, where are the missionaries? I’m pretty sure there are supposed to be missionaries in cannibal stories.

DaveM

If this cannibalism proves true, it is not AGW derived starvation that is the culprit. Rather, it is more likely due to overpopulation.

Dodgy Geezer

“hypothesize that nutritional stresses related to
the longer ice-free seasons that have occurred in the
Beaufort Sea in recent years may have led to the cannibalism
incidents we observed in 2004”
Umm…were 2002 and 2003 particularly poor years for ice? I thought they were rather normal?
Anyway, if a slight dip in 2003 causes canibalism, how much worse must it be in 2007, when there really WAS a dip? So, where are the reports from last year…?

Alan the Brit

Johnyb.
Was that the “Kingdom of the Ice Bear” doc you recall. It was a wonderful prog & the book was likewise fascinating. I equally recall the poin tin hand about the male stalking a female & her cubs. Oh & what was that other prog the other evening on Asian Tigers, (the animals not the economy) oh that’s right, there was this male tiger stalking a female & her cubs, & if caught he would eat kill the cubs & mate with the female, etc. I have a feeling it’s the same withmost animal species, dare I say up to & including our own in some circumstances.
There was a doc prog some years ago about tribal Monkeys in northern India, two tribes, one in the town one out of it. The one in the town had rich pickings. Guess what, the tribe outside the town made a raid into town, had a rumble with the insiders, killed all the males & attempted to wipe out all the male offspring & took over the town, sparing the females young & old for obvious reasons! Could it be a case of natural animal behaviour patterns being observed in survival conditions perhaps, as opposed to Global Warming? However it’s far more exciting to attribute any & all naturally occuring events in nature to some scary story or other. It hasn’t been seen before therefore it must be unprecidented!
As an engineer I sometimes have to look at old buildings because the owner has noticed a crack in a wall or ceiling. It frequently turns out to have been there for a long time & the owner has only just noticed it despite walking passed it 20 times a day for 10 years. That’s humans beings for you I guess!
BTW UK Met Office still adamant temperatures are on an upward trend according to a Brohan et al 2006 study in the Guardian yesterday that happened to show 1975-2007???? temperature range. How odd? Well done Bishop.

BarryW

So what if it’s ice free in the summer? From Wikipedia with my emphasis:

In Hudson Bay, James Bay, and some other areas, the ice melts completely each summer (an event often referred to as “ice-floe breakup”), forcing polar bears to go onto land and wait through the months until the next freeze-up.

gregg

A lot of people have been wondering what’s going on with Al Gore’s lips in this photo. I suspect it’s somehow tied into cannibalism. 😉

kim

Maybe the methane burp visions make them fail to recognize their brother.
==============================================

MattN

This is what happens when desperataion sets in…

Mike Ramsey

It seems that polar bears eat each other even without the excuse of global warming.
http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic52-3-307.pdf
–Mike Ramsey

Peanut Gallery(the artist formerly known as Tom in Florida)

“according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity”
Now that’s the Peanut Gallery!!!

Jerker Andersson

I saw a wasp that ate a fly this summer. What is that a sign of?

snowfalcon

A little rider to the plight of the polar bear – and to the comment that the last inter-glacial was warmer and the bears obviously survived along with the seals – the polar bear is actually a very recent evolutionary offshoot – from the brown bear ancestry – probably only 100,000 years ago and hence has only experienced the ice-age, to which it is an obvious adaptation – so this inter-glacial may be its first real test. It can interbreed with brown bear and produce young. So much as I admire it as an icon, just as any other species encountering natural climate change, it can come and it can go, and something similar can come back – that”s evolution.
I am a long-time supporter of wildlife charities and biodiversity work, but am growing heartily sick of the way the natural world’s response to climate change is so cynically used by campaigners to whip up funding and support of their organisations.

Mike Dubrasich (23:01:37) :

Something’s been eating at me. Does CNN stand for Cannibal News Network? Also, where are the missionaries? I’m pretty sure there are supposed to be missionaries in cannibal stories.

Geez, what an opening for Gorey stories, hope you moderators are ready for it.
Instead of missionaries, there are plans in the works to send investment bankers. Congress is squabbling over who’s going to pay for the fuel to get them there. Answer – taxpayers, it’s always the taxpayers.

Maybe the big guy was rebuffed by the female polar bear….hardly a case for global warming….*sheeez*

Leon Brozyna

Yet another example of advocacy journalism. Once the purview of the supermarket tabloids, it’s gone mainstream in a big way; in this case, to further the cause of environmental activism. Since this year’s melt did not break last year’s record, they threw in a bit to shock, which only works for the uninformed, since cannabalism is rather common in the natural world. It’s only mankind’s ethical concerns that proscribe such practices within our species; we like to think that we would never stoop to such behaviour. Well, here’s news for CNN — it’s not just polar bears that engage in cannabalism. Other bears engage in that practice. Mother bears in these other species also are quite protective of their cubs, lest the male bear get their claws on their cubs, an easy and tempting target for a quick meal under any circumstances.

Tom in Tom in Florida

““It’s definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. ”
Funny how they do not mention that their “normal” is the arbitrary base period of 1979 -2000.

Tom in Florida

Sorry, “Tom in Tom in Florida” is just a mistype, thank god there are not two of me.

Snowfalcon brings up a good point. The polar bear is a rather recent variation in the ursine family – roughly 100,000 to 250,000 years ago.
However, the range of the divergence date from the brown (grizzly) bear indicates the transition of the polar bear could have initially began during the Riss glacial which would mean polar bears survived the Riss-Würm interglacial and continued transition during the recent Würm glacial. I suspect they will survive the present Holocene interglacial, as well.
Here is a brief summery of their development:
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~candela/pbevol.html
OT – Interestingly it would appear both the development of modern H. sapiens and U. maritimus were driven by the need to adapt to glaciation.

John-X

So Kent Brockman is at CNN now?
“Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?”
“Yes. Yes I would, Kent.”

snowfalcon (04:44:46) :

A little rider to the plight of the polar bear – and to the comment that the last inter-glacial was warmer and the bears obviously survived along with the seals – the polar bear is actually a very recent evolutionary offshoot – from the brown bear ancestry – probably only 100,000 years ago….

Dee beat me to it, her link includes “As late as 10,000 years ago, polar bears still had a high frequency of brown-bear-type molars. Only recently have they developed polar-bear-type teeth.”
Given it’s such a species in transition, I’d expect it to be one of the most evolutionarily adaptable critters on the planet. Evolution isn’t a very pretty process, at least if you’re among the unfit.

[…] Read More: wattsupwiththat.com Tags: alaska, CNN, global warming, news, polar bear, Recycling Related Posts […]

Bill Illis

Its the same as the “seven polar bears seen swimming in the open ocean” story.
No fact-checking in that story either as only one bear was seen swimming any significant distance from the ice or land. The other six sightings started in June (when the ice had not melted yet) and extended to bears on ice floes close to shore in early August. The picture accompanying the story was a stock photo taken years before by the WWF of a bear standing in shallow water near the shore (being terrified by the WWF helicopter.)

One might speculate (and I admit I don’t know of any studies off-hand) that the survival pressures due to the extremity of the arctic environment have selected for a greater ability to adapt in the native species.
If H. sapiens has shown the greatest ability to adapt of all the biota which arose during the late Pleistocene, perhaps we will discover that U. maritimus is penultimate?

Scott Covert

Jerker Andersson (04:33:56) :
“I saw a wasp that ate a fly this summer. What is that a sign of?”
Superior firepower.

Pamela Gray

Right now it is about 14 degrees warmer in Enterprise, Oregon. Last year the low temp early in the morning was 26 degrees F. This is causing me to stop cannibalizing my wood pile. This is a good thing this global warming. Or at least the Wallowa County warming this week. And since it is warmer, I can say it is climate, not weather we are talking about. I do remember that warm is climate, cold is noisy weather. But I don’t care if I am now saying “global warming”, and neither does my less freezing behind. Leif and I must be near the same age. We care more about staying warm. The bears can fend for themselves.

DR

Warming Island is still on CNN’s website………

Bil Banks

The usually sceptical Daily Telegraph is reporting methane plumes under the arctic. Just thought you’d be interested, it’s not just about the Bison.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/09/25/eamethane125.xml

Doug Janeway

Polar bears, smoler bears–they’ll be fine. This guy, “Walt Meier,” needs something serious to do. He sits around and watches ice melt–the more that melts, the more excited he gets.
As for the journalism, it’s reaching. Here’s the stretch:
“Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.”
One documented case is evidence for increasing reports? Shouldn’t old Walt, the ice melt gazer, be seeing a lot more of this going on or is he too focused on the ice?

Caty
John-X

The cooling that’s {temporarily} masking the warming is not masking the warming as much this week, and will be masking the warming a little less next week, as you will have highs in the 80s.
http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/forecast/MapClick.php?site=pdt&textField1=45.4253&textField2=-117.2761&smap=1
So enjoy it while you can, because pesky global masking usually returns in October, while the REAL Climate Change, which is always warming, goes to, um…
the oceans…
or someplace.

John-X

sorry…
that last message was for Pamela, with the link to the NWS forecast for Enterprise.

John Galt

Haven’t polar bears always behaved like this? Male bears are known to frequently stalk and kill young cubs. It’s just a matter of what food is available most easily at a particular time. This behavior is hardly unique to polar bears and is seen in many species.
That’s the problem with so many of today’s *nature lovers* — they have no clue about nature! They have some idea in their head that animals are pure but man is a virus. All animal species expand to fill their niche. All animal species reproduce at a level that’s unsustainable — they overpopulate to the level where there’s not enough food and the overpopulation dies off of starvation or migrates somewhere else. Nature appears to be in balance but it’s really a see-saw that bounces back in forth from population boom to bust.
BTW: Do you know polar bears eat baby seals, too?

As soon as the Arctic Ice Melt stopped this season the propaganda machines kicked in to make sure to drown out the reality of the situation. When the monthly average came out last month there was a flurry of reports, and the environmental machine is not going to let that happen again.
Every network has shown or will show a Arctic Ice Story this week, I even saw a guy standing in front of a calving glacier, I think in Sweden I will have to check, saying that global warming causes the ice to break off.
At the very beginning they do mention that it has been happening for thousands of years but it is glossed over pretty fast and the end statement is man is causing it. The order you say things is important, people take away the last sentence.

kent

Does anyone know the energy loss/gain comparison between multi-year sea ice and non-multi-year sea ice areas in polar regions would look like?
If I think of multi year sea ice as clothing and non-sea ice areas as exposed skin then when the sun goes down the exposed skin cools off a lot more than the unexposed skin. The more sea water is exposed to polar cold the more energy the planet looses. Multi-year Sea ice promotes global warming open water and first year sea ice promotes planetary cooling. First year sea ice melts and minus 1.6 degrees c while multi-year sea ice melts at 0 degrees ( The salt has been leached out of it).

Harold Ambler

Bil Banks (06:46:59) :
The usually sceptical Daily Telegraph is reporting methane plumes under the arctic. Just thought you’d be interested, it’s not just about the Bison.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/09/25/eamethane125.xml
I found the following quote from the Telegraph article to be telling:
“Although it is likely that methane has been released continuously for 15,000 years, it is not known how much the process has been accelerated by recent climate changes or how much the releases themselves will contribute to global warming.”

Harold,
We have what we call fire-ice lakes here in Northern Canada, you can chop a hole in the ice in the winter and light the gas on fire.
Resources Canada
“By most estimates, gas hydrate is the largest global reservoir of organic carbon, greater than all conventional hydrocarbons”
“It is interesting that gas is observed escaping to the surface through some arctic lakes that, because of their warm temperature, provide underlying holes in otherwise continuous permafrost.”
OMG lets pave over those lakes right away! Would not want any methane getting out like it has for the last 10,000 years.

Ed Scott

Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks
Polar Bears subsist on polar ice. Who knew?
“Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.”
Nature has characteristically surprised scientists with the unexpected. Now Nature is alarming the scientists.
Mother Nature, it is not nice to fool the scientists.

Bil Banks

Hi Harold,
Although I don’t visit often and haven’t read enough on Anthony’s site to know whether this has been discussed elsewhere, the release of methane in Siberia and other tundra-like areas has been touted over the last few months by the BBC (by the same prof who did the recent BBC Climate Wars whitewash) as the real proof for the AGW tipping point having been reached.
Goes like this: man creates CO2, AGW occurs, methane trapped in permafrost released as perfmafrost defrosts due to AGW, methane stronger GHG than CO2, greater feedback, runaway AGW.
Apologies for the simplistic nature of my explanation. Don’t pretend to be a scientist or understand much of what I read. But my sense of smell remains acute.