Polar bears eating more eider duck eggs

Eider ducks in the Arctic are already facing a large-scale outbreak of avian cholera. Now, a new threat - polar bears - seems to be affecting the birds.

Birds also being affected by avian cholera

An Environment Canada scientist said polar bears appear to be increasing their intake of eider duck eggs in the Arctic.

Thousands of eider ducks in Nunavut and Nunavik have perished in a large-scale outbreak of avian cholera over the past six years.

Now, Grant Gilchrist with Environment Canada, said the birds have another threat - polar bears. He said bears have been feasting on the eggs which are laid on islands off the coast of South Baffin Island and Nunavik.

"Bears are extremely smart and adaptable, and once they arrive in these islands and eat the eider eggs they learn to swim to all the coastal islands. This last summer, for example, over 58 per cent of the islands we visited had been depredated by polar bears and we observed 22 different bears on this offshore island," said Gilchrist.

Gilchrist said they’ve checked 176 islands. He said receding sea ice is likely causing the bears to turn to eggs for food.

Johnny Akpahatak, lives in Aupaluk, Que., and collects eider down to sell. He also said polar bears are more apparent now in summer eider duck colonies.

"The areas we go to have no more ducks, but more bears. In 2009, we collected about 26 large orange garbage bags full of eider down, but recently that has not been the case," he said.

Akpahatak said ice used to break up in July off the coast of Aupaluk in Ungava Bay. But now, he said break up is happening earlier.