Polar bears are starving as Arctic ice melts, warns U.S. study

Polar bears find it hard to catch enough food, even in the best hunting season

The study suggests that as Arctic sea ice diminishes and becomes more fragmented, it will further impact the energetic balance of polar bears by reducing their access to seal prey and by increasing their cost of travel.

For their research, the scientists spied on the polar bears by equipping nine female white giants with tracking collars that had video cameras and the bear equivalent of a Fitbit during three recent springs. And the authors of the current study predict "higher mortality rates" for polar bears as sea ice continues to disappear.

While four bears put on weight, five bears lost up to 10 per cent of their body weight - between 18 and 20 kg - in 10 days. Polar bears rely on seals for their enormous caloric needs-the four bears that lost 10% of their weight didn't catch a single seal during the study and relied on scavenging-and sea ice is pretty much a requirement for polar bears to catch seals.

And they should lobby the global community more to address greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten the polar bears' habitat. A new study shows some polar bears in the Arctic are shedding pounds during the time they are supposed to be beefing up.

Four of the bears, mostly the older ones, did gain as much as 10 percent of their body mass over the study period.

"We now have the technology to learn how they are moving on the ice, their activity patterns, and their energy needs, so we can better understand the implications of these changes we are seeing in the sea ice", he said. "This study identifies the mechanisms that are driving those declines by looking at the actual energy needs of polar bears and how often they're able to catch seals".

Arctic sea ice is getting thinner every year, and there have been significant losses in the overall area covered by ice, according to the latest data. They were living on the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea, off the northern coast of Alaska. "Global warming is melting the ice so it has a chain reaction on how polar bears can survive". They also injected the bears with water labelled with stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen.

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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. The study shows If the bears don't eat that amount of food, they will lose weight quickly.

Polar bears have been listed as endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the protection program repeatedly emphasizes the importance of climate change.

Polar bears could be sliding towards extinction faster than previously feared, with the animals facing an increasing struggle to find enough food to survive as climate change steadily transforms their environment. The researchers could compare this with the bears' activity and hunting success.

Lead scientist, Anthony Pagano, does note that the findings of the Beaufort Sea shouldn't necessarily be expanded to the other 18 circumpolar populations of bears where he says, conditions can differ for each group. As they move greater distances, they use up more energy which they find harder to replenish, for which the primary source is seals.

Although it's just a 10-day snapshot, the study confirms that polar bears aren't made for walking, said Andrew Derocher, Canada's leading polar bear expert and a professor at the University of Alberta.

Most of the time the bears tracked in the study did use the "sit and wait" technique. So by taking blood and urine samples before and after the observation period, the researchers could track how much the polar bears had been working.

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