There have been reports by indigenous people of the arctic of polar bears targeting walruses with rocks pushed over cliff sides since the late 1700’s, but only in July, 2021 does a scientific report confirm the suspected behavior albeit in a captive scenario.
Metal Floss reports Inuits accounts over the centuries tell of polar bears using rocks and other blunt-force objects to target walruses below cliffs. Scientists at the University of Alberta, Edmonton have done a thorough review of the accounts and found them to be credible. While rare, it appears polar bears do indeed seek to bludgeon walruses with rocks or chunks of ice.
The Arctic Institute of North America journal references GoGo, a polar bear held in captivity at a Japanese zoo that has been observed throwing sticks and a tire at food just out of range to try and knock it off and into reach. Polar bears in Alaska have also been observed throwing ice at seals. Fascinating.
Since the late 1700s, reports of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) using tools (i.e., pieces of ice or stones) to kill walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) have been passed on verbally to explorers and naturalists by their Inuit guides, based on local traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as well as accounts of direct observations or interpretations of tracks in the snow made by the Inuit hunters who reported them.
To assess the possibility that polar bears may occasionally use tools to hunt walruses in the wild, we summarize 1) observations described to early explorers and naturalists by Inuit hunters about polar bears using tools, 2) more recent documentation in the literature from Inuit hunters and scientists, and 3) recent observations of a polar bear in a zoo spontaneously using tools to access a novel food source.
These observations and previously published experiments on brown bears (Ursus arctos) confirm that, in captivity, polar and brown bears are both capable of conceptualizing the use of a tool to obtain a food source that would otherwise not be accessible.
Based on the information from all our sources, this may occasionally also have been the case in the wild. We suggest that possible tool use by polar bears in the wild is infrequent and mainly limited to hunting walruses because of their large size, difficulty to kill, and their possession of potentially lethal weapons for both their own defense and the direct attack of a predator. images from flickr.com npsclimatechange & DenverChannel Facebook