Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Killer whales moving in on polar bears' territory

  • Print

RESEARCHERS say melting Arctic sea ice is enticing more killer whales to Nunavut waters where they are competing with Inuit hunters for food and threatening to replace polar bears as the North's top predators.

Scientists from the University of Manitoba interviewed hunters from 11 of the territory's communities about their observations on the habits of killer whales seen in the area. The findings are published in the online journal Aquatic Biosystems.

Lead author Steven Ferguson, who is with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Freshwater Institute at the university, said the Inuit are seeing more killer whales. The powerful predators tend to avoid sea ice but that ice is disappearing.

Once in the Arctic, he said, killer whales have been seen to use a variety of hunting tactics to feast on belugas, seals and narwhals.

Sea ice often provides the only cover such mammals have to escape one of the Orcas. Seals can get out of the water onto the ice and other whales can manoeuvre into ice-packed areas where the killer whale's dorsal fin prevents it from following.

"If we lose that sea ice, they are now going to be out in the open water and don't have the kind of strategies to reduce the risk of a killer whale catching them and eating them," Ferguson said. "We just might see a lot of mortality in some of the more southerly areas."

He suggested the killer whales could be behind a massive transition within the whole Arctic ecosystem.

"This change of what animals live in the Arctic is likely going to happen with the warming but we didn't anticipate that... killer whales might be removing certain susceptible prey and maybe temperate species will move up to take their place."

Ferguson also suggests that while the population of other whales and seals is relatively healthy, killer whales could cause problems for the Inuit who will be increasingly competing against the giant mammals for food.

Inuit have long expressed concern about the apparent increase in killer whales.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2012 A2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Glenn January won't blame offensive line for first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google