Home > Conservation, Environmental Issues > The Polar Bear In Danger

The Polar Bear In Danger

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Polar Bears

From predators to environmental changes, marine mammals have always faced danger in some form or another.  Conservation is a huge subject today in our society, and as we look at how populations have been affected in the past, we try to protect these animals as best we can.  One species, for example, that has encountered problems  in conservation, would be the Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus. 

Since 2007 the polar bear has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  The main threat for its dwindling population has to do with the effect global warming has had on loss of sea habitat.  However, as with most species, human activity has been a threat as well.  Oil and gas development stress the environment.  The Alaskan polar bear population relies on the Arctic coastal plain for hunting and denning.  Both of these are threatened by the oil and gas industries.  With rising temperatures though, and ice melting further back, the range of which grizzlies roam is expanding higher into the Arctic; this means they are venturing into polar bear territory.  Although both species of bears have different prey, they both eat cubs, a practice that could hurt already threatened polar bear populations.


Grizzlies in Polar Bear territory

Some polar bears have also been known to get stuck on floating ice, or drown from having to swim a farther distance for food or shelter.  Polar bears can swim short distances between ice floes but as global warming prevails and ice floes become further apart, there is a higher risk of more bears tiring and drowning.  “Bears at the southern edge of their range are becoming thinner with lower reproductive rates and declining body condition.” (On Thin Ice, NWF Daniel Glick).  Polar bears have been slowly forced to cannibalism; stalking, eating, and killing its own kind.  They are ice-loving animals and literally cannot live without it.  Their entire life-cycle is tied to seasonal Arctic change in the sea ice.  Females have a low production rate as it is, at about two cubs per liter both with a fifty percent survival rate, and females do not mate until they are five years of age.  If conditions are unfavorable, they won’t reproduce at all.  After denning/hibernation, prey is coming out at different timings, so the bears are starving. 


Ice Thining

Globally, it is estimated that there are between 25,000 and 40,000 polar bears.  “In the 1990s, Polar Bears in Hudson Bay were 10 percent thinner than they were two decades earlier and had 10 percent fewer offspring.” (“Polar Bear and Otters” by unknown source).

Check out this video on Arctic Sea Ice Melting animation and more information on the effect it will have on polar bears.  It’s estimated that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050 due to ice loss. http://www.nwf.org/polarbearsandglobalwarming/seaiceanimation.cfm

For ways you can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, visit the National Wildlife Federation at http://www.nwf.org/globalwarming/

After all, Extinction Is Forever, Endangered Means We Still Have Time.

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