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New Study Shows Polar Bears in Western Arctic Going Hungry

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polar_bear_sunset.jpgNew research indicates that polar bears in the western Arctic are finding it increasingly difficult to find food during the critical spring season.The study by Seth Cherry and Andrew Derocher of the University of Alberta reveals that the number of undernourished bars has tripled in the past twenty years.

The Alberta scientists and their colleagues monitored the health of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea region during the spring of 1985/86 and then again in 2005/06 when sea ice cover was at or near record lows.

The scientists measured the ratio of urea to creatinine – byproducts of metabolism – to determine how much the bears are eating. A low ratio means that nitrogenous waste material is being recycled in the body, indicating the bear is fasting.

In springtime mature males spend most of their energy looking for mates, so it is not unusual to see some of these animals going without food for considerable lengths of time. Nonetheless, the blood samples taken from bears in 2005/06 showed a marked increase in the number of bears that were fasting. Additionally, the fasting was for longer periods of time and it made no difference how old the bears were or if they were male or female. According to the research, nearly a third of the bears monitored were going without food longer than they normally would.

Polar bears use sea ice as a platform for hunting seals. Other than the normal fasting of males looking for females, springtime is typically a time of feasting for polar bears as they fill up before the summer sea ice retreat. The scientists believe that the increase in undernourished bears is explained by warmer seas and earlier spring melts.

It is clear that the changes in the sea ice are affecting the hunting opportunities available to the bears,” says Derocher.

Not only is the early melt affecting the bears ability to hunt, it could also have significant impact on the prey for which they hunt. The diminishing sea ice impedes the seals’ ability to nurse and build dens for their pups, causing their numbers to drop.

Anecdotally, there are increased sightings of bears swimming in open water and eating food not customary to their diets, such as fish. Other research has shown that melting ice is driving pregnant mothers onto land to build their birthing dens.

If the ice continues to contract, which seems inevitable, polar bears will become even more nutritionally disadvantaged. The study proves polar bears are in serious trouble,” says Rick Steiner, a marine conservationist at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Sources and Further Reading
Environmental News Network
ABC News


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Comments

  1. Hey

    It’s hard to read your article because part of it is obscured by your “Recent Visitors” overlay. Please don’t cover up words in your articles. It makes you look like inept site managers and probably reflects negatively on the reliability of your content with visitors.

    • Thanks for the heads-up on the recent readers widget. It is problematic with smaller screen sizes, and we certainly don’t want to make it harder to read for anyone. The recent readers widget is a useful tool for social networking, so we’d like to keep it. I’ve just moved it over to the right sidebar and it looks like it will work better there, even with reduced screen sizes or browser windows.

      Thanks again for the comment – I hope you go back and read the whole (unobstructed) article on my experience talking with the biologist in Canada about polar bears!

  2. “It is clear that the changes in the sea ice are affecting the hunting opportunities available to the bears,” says Derocher.”

    This is not clear at all. This is an opinion as there is nothing to support it. The bears in question do not hunt on the ice for their prey during most of the year. They live ON LAND.

    “If the ice continues to contract, which seems inevitable, polar bears will become even more nutritionally disadvantaged. The study proves polar bears are in serious trouble,” says Rick Steiner, a marine conservationist at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.”

    The study only proves that the authors have not closely examined the Arctic ice data and are simply drawing conclusions from their personal bias and needs.

    As the Arctic ice has been increasing, they are patently wrong and, as the other 11 of 13 polar bear colonies are thriving, they are generalizing unscientifically and practicing “presumtology”β€”the art of jumping to conclusions.

    What we have here is the requisite plea for more funding as they clearly support the manmade global warming scam.

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