Study Shows Polar Bears Sometimes Use Tools to Kill Walruses

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An engraving of a polar bear hurling a rock at a walrus from Charles Francis Hall's 1865 book Arctic researches, and life among the Esquimaux. ( Smithsonian Libraries/Public Domain)

Polar Bears Take Down Walruses by Hurling Rocks and Ice

by David Kindy/Smithsonianmag.com

In 1865, Arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall published an Inuit account of a polar bear attacking a walrus with a rock on Baffin Island in Canada. He even included an engraving of the bludgeoning in his book Arctic researches, and life among the Esquimaux.

“The bear mounts the cliff, and throws down upon the animal’s head a large rock, calculating the distance and the curve with astonishing accuracy, and thus crushing the thick bullet-proof skull,” Hall describes in his book.

Scientists have long dismissed these centuries-old claims of polar bears smashing the skulls of walruses with rocks and chunks of ice as myth and legend. Now, Canadian researchers have found evidence to corroborate the Indigenous knowledge.

Reviewing Inuit accounts over the past 200 years, lead author Ian Stirling, a biologist at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and his team report in a new study that while rare, these attacks likely do occur. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Arctic, the research concludes that “polar bears may occasionally use tools to hunt walruses in the wild.”

“I have always been impressed with the accuracy and reliability of the observations of animals reported by experienced Inuit hunters, …read more:

Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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