Monday, February 05, 2007

Polar Bear

Polar bears are the world's largest land predators, and the most majestic creatures of the Far North. But dramatic changes taking place in the Arctic threaten the survival of this spectacular species. Scientists have predicted that if nothing is done, polar bears risk extinction within this century.

Global warming is melting the polar ice caps, robbing the bears of the ice floe they need to hunt prey. As the annual sea ice melts, polar bears are forced ashore to spend their summers fasting. If the Arctic ice cap continues to melt sooner and form later, polar bears will become too thin to reproduce. A 2004 National Geographic Society study showed that polar bears that year weighed, on average, fifteen percent less than they did in the 1970s.

Increased human activity in the North brings other threats to the polar bear. The Arctic accumulates large concentrations of pollutants, which are carried in currents and winds. Pollutants such as Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), that are still being used in many countries, have the ability to be stored in fat cells of small invertebrates. These chemicals continue up the food chain, finally building up in larger wildlife. Because they are at the top of the food chain, polar bears are highly exposed to toxic chemicals ingested by animals they eat.

As shipping increases in the North, oil spills are inevitable due to tanker transport of crude oil, but the latest issue is the suggested drilling for oil in the arctic reserve. Spilled oil strips the bear's fur of its insulating properties and renders the bear's prey inedible.

Common Name: Polar Bear

Scientific Name: Ursus maritimus

Status: Vulnerable

Population: Between 22,000 to 27,000

Lifespan: 20 to 25 years

Range: Most polar bears live in Canada, but other populations exist in Alaska, Russia, Greenland and Norway.

Threats: Air pollution, climate change, oil spills, toxic chemicals.

Save Them!
Climate change affects humans and bears alike. Do your part to stop global warming by reducing carbon emissions.
Make a donation to Nature Canada's efforts to save the polar bear's habitat.
Nature Canada
Polar Bears International