Polar bears might be the poster animals for the looming climate crisis, but in Canada's Western Hudson Bay, scientists are finding that the bears may be more resourceful than we thought!

The warming Arctic climate steals precious sea ice – a much-needed platform for hunting seals – away from the bears ... but it's also had other, more surprising, repercussions. As the ice melts earlier and earlier each year, their seal-hunting window is cut short and the hungry bears return to shore ahead of time, bringing them face to face with something new and tasty: thousands of snow geese. Camera traps monitored by Dr Robert 'Rocky' Rockwell, a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History, and David Isles of Utah State University have recorded the hungry bears gorging on goose eggs to supplement their diets!

"Each clutch of eggs is the caloric value of one and a half Big Macs," explains Rockwell. "We've had bears come ashore ... and eat 200-300 nests of eggs (four eggs each) in a 96-hour period – which is maybe 10% of their annual caloric value, [meaning] what they need for the year!" he adds. 

Gorging on geese doesn't replace the bears' need to eat fatty seals, but for Arctic researchers like Rockwell, studying these changing predator-prey relationships seems a good place to start if we are to understand how this ecosystem will change in unexpected ways as the climate shifts.

Top header image: Emma Bishop, Flickr