- TORONTO,(Reuters) - Polar
bears are preying on a group of Beluga whales trapped by shifting ice
in the Canadian Arctic, ripping off flesh as the whales surface to breathe,
the Canadian Press news agency reported on Monday.
- It said a hunter first noticed in late April that about
50 whales were trapped under ice near Ellesmere Island, 1,000 km (620
miles) north of the Arctic Circle. The nearest open water was about 30
km (18 miles) away, too far for the whales to find by sonar.
- It quoted Const. Brian Glover of Royal Canadian Mounted
Police as saying the whales had been using a single hole in the ice to
surface and breathe.
- ``They've just been coming up to the same hole over and
over,'' Glover said.
- ``The bears have been waiting there and jumping on top
of them and going for their heads or their blowholes. A lot of them are
quite damaged, quite scarred,'' he said.
- ``There's huge chunks of flesh taken out of the backs
of the whales.''
- He said many of the whales had been so badly wounded
that the bears could pull them out of the water and onto the ice.
- Local hunters and trappers had since punched five more
holes in nearby ice, giving the whales other places to breathe and a greater
chance of avoiding the bears.
- Glover said up to 13 polar bears had been seen at one
time at the edge of the ice, waiting to pounce on the whales.
- Beluga whales, also called white whales, are common in
the area but hunters had not seen such a large group trapped since the
1960s, he said.
- The ice was starting to break up and the remaining whales
should soon be able to get away from the bear ambush.
- ``Nothing can really be done about it. You have to let
Mother Nature take its course,'' Glover said.
- Belugas are one of the smallest whale species found in