Polar bears reside mainly in Canada and throughout the artic region. They live, eat, mate, and sleep on ice. They are the largest of all the bear species and their massive weight and thick furry coat makes them perfectly suited to live life on the ice. Their bodies are equipped with thicker-than-average fur, and they have an additional layer of fat, which keeps them thoroughly insulated.
They are carnivorous and tend to hunt around the open edges of ice where they can find the largest population of fatty seals, which are their favorite meal. They’re also known to feed on whale carcasses, walrus, and bird’s eggs. What most people don’t realize about polar bears is that they store up on these fatty meals through winter, in order to survive on their fat stores during summer when the ice melts.
Unfortunately, the ice in Canada is forming later and later every year; sometimes, the ice isn’t forming until late into December. Not only is the ice forming late, but it’s melting earlier too. With less time on the ice to hunt and build up extra fat stores, many polar bears are starving before the next winter arrives. The polar bears are losing their feeding season, which coincides with a drop in Canada’s polar bear population. Although the current polar bear population is holding, it’s expected to decline further and the reason is incredibly sad. Polar bear cubs aren’t surviving their first year due to lack of food; the babies are starving.
A decrease in food is affecting the population of polar bears. It’s also causing an increase in human and polar bear interactions. When their icy homes melt, polar bears take to land until the next season. In the past, this wasn’t a problem as most bears tend to avoid the populated areas during summer months. Now the bear’s food stores aren’t lasting, so they’re hungry and searching for food in atypical locations. Polar bears are entering Canada’s control areas, which is creating havoc because polar bears are enormous and dangerous to humans. Canada has been forced to increase polar bear scouting patrols who tranquilize rogue polar bears when they’re found. Once tranquilized the rogue bear is transported to a wildlife holding facility affectionately known as, “Polar Bear jail.” They’re eventually released into the wild. Officials have stated that the number of jailed polar bears has doubled over the last couple of years and overall human encounters has increased exponentially.
Wildlife officials fear that this continuing weather change may lead to the polar bear population becoming endangered and eventually extinct. Conservationists believe that this change in ice patterns can be attributed to global warming. Climate change is wreaking havoc on wildlife in the artic region. Without the ice that polar bears desperately need, they will continue to die or they will seek out food in human populated areas.
So, what can be done? Well, the world can start by reducing greenhouse gases. Are you a registered voter? If not, get registered and then vote for representatives that understand our current carbon-based society isn’t sustainable for humans or polar bears. Share this message of greener living and sustainability with your friends and family.
For more politically driven tips, check out Polar Bears International’s Tips from Scientist to Help Polar Bears. While there, make a donation to help continue the work of Steven Amstrup who is the site’s chief scientist and who has spent the last 30 years studying polar bears in Alaska for the USA’s Geological Survey. Amstrup has made it his life’s purpose to help the polar bears and he’s responsible for the reports that led to the polar bear being listed as a threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act.