A significant part of childhood entertainment is premised on the idea that it’s fun to watch animals eat. Dogs are so slobbery! Horses have such big teeth and like apples! Birds will fight over bread crumbs! In fact, it’s so fun to feed animals that often we humans have to be told not to feed them.
It’s less fun to feed the animals, though, when you’re just trying to keep them from death’s door. And, as an article in Conservation Letters argues, with sea ice vanishing faster than a fish slipping down a hungry seal’s throat, humans may have to feed the polar bears if we want them to survive. The Guardian reports:
The day may soon come when some of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia will have to be fed by humans in order to keep them alive during an extended ice-free season or prevent them from roaming into northern communities…
Without adequate sea ice for enough of the year, many bears will not be able to use the ice as a feeding platform to hunt their favored prey, ringed seals. As a consequence, polar bears will be forced to spend more time fasting on land, where they pose a greater risk to human populations in the Arctic.
Polar bears eat a lot of seals — up to five per week, the Guardian says. And if we’re the ones doing the feeding, that would mean we’d have to round up the seals, transport them to polar bears, and then kill them. (Or kill them and then transport them to polar bears? I don’t know, I didn’t realize I was going to be put in charge of bear welfare!) We’re talking about thousands of seals. And, not to get too depressing, but it’s only a matter of time before we figure out how to process seals as efficiently as we process cows, and polar bears are feasting on pink-slime sealburgers.