Car­casses washed up on is­land ‘not po­lar bears’

The Oban Times - - News -

A TRIO OF car­casses washed up on the Is­land of Colon­say are not likely to be the re­mains of off-track po­lar bears stranded on an ice float – but are much more likely to be the re­mains of a de­ceased whale.

Last week some na­tional me­dia re­ported sight­ings of what was be­lieved to be po­lar bears on the West Coast is­land due to the fur-like ma­te­rial cov­er­ing their bones.

But the na­tional ex­pert in this field, Nick Dav­i­son, strand­ings co- or­di­na­tor for the Scot­tish Marine An­i­mal Strand­ing Scheme, said: ‘We are con­fi­dent that these are highly au­tol­ysed [self- di­gested] cetacean car­cases.

‘The fur re­ferred to in the article is de­com­pos­ing blub­ber, which be­comes stringy in ap­pear­ance as the lipids from the blub­ber are drained away leav­ing the col­la­gen fi­bres. Once the bones are ex­posed we may be able to iden­tify these an­i­mals to a species level with help from the ex­perts at the Na­tional Mu­seum for Scot­land.

‘From the pho­tos that were sent to us when the an­i­mals were first re­ported back in Au­gust, we can­not see the car­casses hav­ing any limbs, or fur, or a skull with teeth that would iden­tify them as any species of the Ur­sus fam­ily.

‘Po­lar bears reach a max­i­mum length of about 2.5 me­ters. Their near­est habi­tat is 1,597 miles away from Scot­land, and, although keen swim­mers, this dis­tance vastly ex­ceeds the record swim of 400 miles, and the cur­rent wa­ter tem­per­a­tures around Scot­land are about 11 to 12 de­grees Cel­sius mak­ing ice­floats very un­suit­able lif­er­afts.

‘Given that the car­casses on Colon­say are ap­prox three me­ters each yet are in­com­plete with­out a skull, and that a po­lar bear ei­ther swimming or float­ing such dis­tances is lo­gis­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble, makes the pos­si­bil­ity of one po­lar bear reach­ing Scot­land in an iden­ti­fi­able con­di­tion highly ques­tion­able not to men­tion three, of a sim­i­lar size, on one small is­land off the West Coast.’

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