Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Alaskan Bears Enjoy a Whale of a Meal

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | June 10, 2016 02:18pm ET

A naturalist guide for a remote lodge in Alaska recently photographed an incredible sight — close-up views of a beached sperm whale carcass that was being scavenged by brown bears.

The images were captured by Karyn Traphagen, a naturalist guide with the nearby Tutka Bay Lodge in the south central part of the state. She snapped the photos on June 4 as a bear prowled around the carcass and even climbed on top of it, and then posted the photos on her "Stay Curious" Facebook page, where she chronicles her encounters with Alaska plants and wildlife.  

Traphagen told Live Science in an email that the whale was mostly intact when she first saw it, and that bears were "licking the skin and oil and eating soft parts." She described the whale's teeth, visible in the lower jaw, as "bigger than the bear's claws," estimating them to be about 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length.

An airplane pilot first spotted the beached whale in the beginning of June, and Traphagen later led small groups of lodge guests to observe the location  from a distance, so as not to disturb the bears that had begun to feed.

"It was pretty windy, so the smell was not too bad  — yet!" Traphagen said.

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