Icebreaker

Tool usage – something typically associated with (but definitely not exclusive to) primates. Yet polar bears are also a part of the DIY club and will sometimes turn to using rocks or chunks of ice to help them in taking down their prey. They have (as far as reports go) not yet gotten so far as to use catapults, but who knows…

Although knowledge of this behaviour isn’t really new (it has been observed and noted by Inuit hunters for generations) it does serve as a reminder that other animals can be just as handy should the need arise. Although tool use (or just ‘clever’ behaviour in general, such as tricking their prey to come closer) by bears isn’t something that’s observed often, it does occur and suggests that bears would probably rank high in what we would term ‘intelligence’. That being said, as long as we don’t have polar bears starting to use more ‘refined’ tools to do their hunting I’m happy – the idea of them ‘tossing’ about rocks is scary enough!

The review by Ian Stirling’s team that compiled different accounts of tool use by Polar Bears can be found here: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic72532

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