Chagrin and Bear It
Melting sea ice makes polar bears starve, drown
Travel agents hawking trips to the Arctic have been boasting lately of an increased likelihood that tourists will see polar bears — because starving bears are encroaching on human settlements to scavenge for food. Polar bears have traditionally used ice floes to hunt seals, their favored prey — but Arctic ice, in case you hadn’t heard, is melting. According to new research in the journal Arctic, the spring hunting season for polar bears has been reduced by nearly three weeks in some places, causing female bears to gain up to 175 pounds less than normal. Far from enjoying their slender physiques, the skinny bears are more susceptible to disease and have diminished reproductive capabilities, and their cubs are less likely to survive. In 1980, the average weight of an adult female polar bear in western Hudson Bay was 650 pounds; in 2004, it was 507 pounds. The Arctic study warns that the risk posed to polar bears by global warming is potentially irreversible. How’s that for a Monday downer?