Polar bears have been roaming freely around the Arctic for many years, but scientists now fear that their numbers could soon decline unless something is done to reduce the effects of climate change. Climate change is gradually removing older and more stable sea ice from the Arctic, and leaving the polar bear without vital hunting ground, mating areas and dens. Although the population of polar bears is 20,000 – 25,000, it is believed that at least two thirds of them will have disappeared in the next fifty years unless drastic action is taken.
Amazing Facts About Polar Bears
This ursine is one of the largest members of the bear family and can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds, and stand as high as eleven feet.
Cold Climate Adaptations
Their thick white coats have a four-inch layer of fat underneath to help with insulation, and their strong, streamlined bodies make them very adept swimmers.
What Do Polar Bears Eat?
Their diet consists mainly of seals, although they will eat whale and walrus carcasses, small rodents, seabirds, waterfowl, and even human garbage when their usual food supplies run low. Pregnant polar bears, in particular, require a considerable amount of food during the summer and fall to build up vital fat reserves.
Are Polar Bears Going Extinct?
Although climate change is the greatest threat, these large bears also face danger from poachers and oil spills. People from native Arctic populations have been hunting these powerful bears for thousands of years, and they are frequently used as a source of food, clothing and bedding. Polar bear fur is also sold for worthwhile sums of money, as well as being used in the making of local handicrafts. Oil spills are a great threat to polar bears too, as oil can get into their thick, protective coats and interfere with insulation. Oil spills can also have a drastic effect on important food supplies. Global warming is also warming their habitat making it more difficult for them to find food.
Polar bears are now protected by the Endangered Species Act, and it is hoped by conservation biologists that by taking greater steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we will be able to slow down global warming and help save vital polar bear habitat. In contrast to this, it has also been said that polar bears are extremely adaptable and intelligent animals that could learn to adapt very easily to warmer Arctic conditions if the need arose. These bears have already survived for many years throughout both warmer and colder times, and it is thought that if polar bears were forced to move to onshore areas that it would not necessarily result in the eventual extinction of the species.