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Polar bears poorly adapted to life without sea ice, new study finds

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb14,2024


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Without sea ice, bears have difficulty getting enough food. (Archive photo)

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Despite the hopes of many Arctic communities, polar bears are unlikely to be able to adapt to a decline in ice cover because they cannot get enough food on land, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature.

A group of American and Canadian scientists came to this conclusion by following around twenty of polar bears in their search for food in western Hudson Bay, Manitoba.

They noticed that, during the summer, certain bears try to eat by looking for bird eggs, berries, caribou or carcasses of animals on the edge of the beaches.

These bears who ate on dry land lost approximately the same weight as those who preferred to rest to conserve energy. […] Both groups lose about 1 kilogram per day, which is enormous for these bears who stay on land for about 130 days during the summer, explains the Alaska Science Center researcher and co-signer of this Anthony Pagano study.

Radio collars equipped with cameras have allowed scientists to understand the eating habits of bears in summer.

This data demonstrates the extent to which polar bears are dependent on hunting seals, which are rich in fat, for good health.

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ELSELSE ON INFO: A major reconciliation with of the Innu so that Hydro-Québec achieves its objectives

However, they need the ice floe to be able to find their prey.

Longer summers and reduced ice cover in the northern regions of the country therefore considerably increase the risk of starvation among these bears, who would find it increasingly difficult to eat. Undernutrition would also be to blame for the decline in reproductive capacity among females.

The phenomenon is therefore likely to accelerate with x27;future, according to researchers, at the rate of loss of ice cover each year, due to accelerating climate change.

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Bears can lose 1 kilogram of body mass per day when they do not have access to sea ice to hunt seals.

The study group now plans to evaluate during which period the impact on bears will be most felt, according to the ice forecasts. p>

This reality, highlighted by researchers, is increasingly felt in Nunavik, on the east side of Hudson Bay and the Bay of Ungava.

This year in this region, the sea ice cover formed much later than expected. Inuit observers see this as a direct sign of climate change.

It is not like it used to be. We have early springs, late winters, summers are hotter every year. It’s something we’ve never seen in our lives. […] This is very worrying for the Inuit, explains Tommy Palliser, director of the Nunavik Regional Marine Wildlife Committee.

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The polar bear uses the ice cover to hunt seals. (Archive photo)

Tommy Palliser also points out that the loss of ice cover is already having repercussions on polar bears, who sometimes should have difficult to eat.

He fears that bears will come closer and closer to villages in search of food, as was the case cases for the first time in Kuujjuaq last January.

It's a security issue, when they come to your community, they are not afraid. They are hungry. That's a big change. They used to hunt on the ice in November. Now the ice forms in December or January, he adds.

Nunavik is located south of the range of polar bear, its bear population would therefore be more affected than bear populations further north.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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