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Polar Bears

Polar Bears on icePolar bears are powerful icons for demonstrationg the impacts of climate change. They are arctic inhabitants which require sea ice for their critical habitat, and unfortunately, Climate change is causing the arctic ice to melt earlier in the spring and freeze later in the fall.  This accelerated loss of sea ice coverage has occurred from 1978 to 2008, with unprecedented loss occurring in 2007 and 2008, as demonstrated by this incredible Ice Loss video  (provided by Polar Bears International).  This video, developed by Ignatius G. Rigor (University of Washington, Seattle Applied Physics Lab) depicts annual sea ice formation (winter) and recession (summer) over the last 30 years, but take special note of what has happened to the white multi-year ice that should remain relatively stable year-round, the movement of the ice measurement buoys (red dots) as they flow into the Atlantic Ocean, and the amount of overall ice coverage there was in 1978 compared to 2008.

Polar bears rely on this winter ice formation to mate and to hunt seals (which have an extremely high fat content) in order to build up their own supply of body fat to sustain them while on land throughout the summer when the ice recedes. The polar bear's ability to meet its fat requirements directly depends on the existence of ice habitat since they cannot survive on the low-fat content of terrestrial mammals or vegetation. Sadly, reductions in the amount of time polar bears currently spend hunting on sea ice is already negatively affecting polar bear health and productivity. Female body weights are decreasing, the number of independent yearlings is declining, female reproductive intervals are increasing, and famished males awaiting the formation of sea-ice are now cannibalizing young polar bear cubs.

What Can YOU Do?

Individuals can visit Polar Bear International to:

IMATA Organizational Members can visit Polar Bear International to: