Scientists predict that sea ice will disappear from the Arctic before the year 2050. The polar bear, already an endangered species, is dependent on the sea ice for its survival. Polar bears use sea ice as a platform for hunting their primary food—seals. They retreat to land in the summer when the sea ice is gone. With the continued warming of the Arctic climate, the sea is staying free of ice for much longer than before.
Previously, polar bears would live off their fat reserves while they were on shore waiting for the sea ice to reform. With ice-free periods growing longer and longer, polar bears are deprived of their main food source and starve. Scientists say that an ice-free period lasting four months will result in a sharp decline in the polar bear population.
To keep from starving, polar bears scavenge the towns and villages of the Arctic regions, looking for food anywhere they can find it, like in garbage dumps. They will also sometimes go after sled dogs. Human-polar bear encounters in these situations often don’t end well for the bears.
The primary way to save the polar bear from extinction is to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Many scientists are also concerned about another threat to the polar bear—offshore drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic. An oil spill could pollute polar bear habitats and contaminate fish and animals in the whole Arctic food chain.
Interested in learning more about how you can help save the polar bear? Check out http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/ for more information.
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