Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Polar Bears Under Pressure
A firsthand account documents how rising temperatures in the Arctic are depleting food sources and putting the animals at risk
We chose this spot because of the flowers that provide a colorful backdrop to the Arctic wildlife inhabiting the area. But we’re also here to document with our cameras how polar bears fare during an Arctic summer that has become warmer and longer in recent years because of global warming.
Information is somewhat conflicting on the impact of the recent temperature rise in the Arctic on polar bears. On one hand, there are reports indicating lower cub survival in Alaska. Bodies have been found drowned off the north shore of the state. In contrast to the past, pack ice in the summer is now often hundreds of miles offshore, providing the animals with almost no opportunity to hunt during the warm months of the year. In that part of the Arctic, the future of the polar bear, even in the short term, is uncertain, so the animal was put on the endangered species list in the United States.
In the first week, we saw the occasional bear patrolling the coastline for flotsam. Most of them were adult males who kept their distance and showed no interest in us at all. One young bear, probably in his first year on his own, hung around camp for a couple of days before moving off. Everything is different now because the storm brought a present on its wings. The high waves washed up a dead beluga whale 100 yards from our camp.
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