Polar bears are starving as Arctic ice melts, warns USA study

Polar bears are starving as Arctic ice melts, warns USA study

Polar bears are starving as Arctic ice melts, warns USA study

As a scientist, he stresses that we shouldn't go off of gut feelings, but rather reliable data - "and for polar bears, those (data) aren't there yet".

Scientists were given an insight into the bears' weight problems by fitting nine females with satellite collars fixed with video cameras over the past three springs in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Turns out they are high-energy beasts, burning through 12,325 calories a day-despite sitting around most of the time, according to a unique metabolic analysis of wild bears published Thursday in Science.

Blaine Griffen, a Brigham Young University biology professor who wasn't part of the study, praised the USGS work, noting that past studies have looked at resting polar bears and polar bears on treadmills in the lab.

This April 20, 2015 photo provided by Busch Gardens shows a polar bear wearing a Global Positioning System video-camera collar lying on a chunk of sea ice in the Beaufort Sea. Then the bear bites it on the neck and drags it onto the ice.

"We found that they were really dependent on their ability to catch seals", Mr. Pagano said. That's why the melting of the Arctic sea ice threatens polar bear survival. Because of climate change, the ice is shrinking and thinning more and earlier, he said.

The ice cover in the Arctic grows in the winter and melts in the summer.

"The bears are moving with the ice and moving into these deeper water areas where it's thought they are having much less opportunity to catch seals".

"It's thought that bears might catch a couple per month in the fall, compared to five to 10 per month in the spring and early summer", Mr Pagano said.

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The GPS told them the distances the bears wandered, and the video camera recorded if the bears were successful in killing and eating prey. Blood and urine samples were also taken. One bear had moved 155 miles away by that time. Underfed bears were losing 1 per cent of their body mass every day. More than half of the bears were decreasing in body mass during their main hunting period, the study found. This bear even leapt into the sea in a failed attempt to catch a seal swimming by. It has been hard, however, for researchers to study the fundamental biology and behavior of polar bears in this very remote and harsh environment, Pagano said.

The scientists warned that changes to the polar bears' environment may make it impossible for them to meet their high energy demands, resulting in a rapid decline in their numbers. The species is categorized as "vulnerable".

"This is an excellent paper that fills in a lot of missing information about polar bears", said Amstrup, who was not involved in the USGS research. Four of these populations are considered to be declining. Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 23,000 polar bears living throughout the Arctic.

In fact, when measured at its September minimum, Arctic sea ice has declined by around 13% per decade since 1979.

"Pretty much every component they've found was largely confirmatory in nature", Derocher said. "They need to be catching a lot of seals", he said.

"Spring is the pupping season for the seals", said Dr. Bechshoft. In the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, sea ice begins to recede from the continental shelf in July and most of the bears travel north on the ice as it withdraws.

The metabolic rates of the bears were on average more than 50 per cent higher than previous studies had predicted, according to the findings. One female bear Griffen studied swam 426 miles over nine days. While the decline has been easy to observe, the causes have been more elusive, given the remote areas the bears inhabit.

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