Polar Bears Arriving on Land Early due to Climate Change

First Posted: Mar 20, 2013 03:44 AM EDT

Polar bears are one of the most prominent features of the Arctic environment. Of late, due to the warming of the Arctic, a lot of attention is drawn toward the effects of melting sea ice on polar bears. The polar bears move from place to place depending of the shifting patterns of the sea ice.

A latest finding claims that polar bears are shifting their migration pattern because of the changes in sea ice, reports LiveScience.

The warming climate has therefore limited the time the polar bears can hunt on ice. 

The study, published March 19 in the Journal Animal Ecology, carefully analyzed the data of the migration pattern of 109 female polar bears in Hudson Bay, Canada, which was collected with the help of satellite tracking between 1991-1997 and 2004-2009.

The team, led by Dr. Seth Cherry, of the University of Alberta, Canada, noticed that the rate at which the sea ice melts and re-freezes, along with the distribution of the sea ice around the bay, predicts when the bears migrate onto the land or return to the ice, reports Sciencedaily.

Reports in Express.Co state that during the summer when the sea ice melts, the polar bears migrate on to the land where they cannot hunt seals, their main food source, and have to depend on the fat reserves for their survival. The polar bears return to the sea in late November or early December when the sea ice re-freezes. But in recent years, there has been a change in this trend, with the polar bears shifting to the land early and returning to sea late.

Dr. Cherry was quoted in Express.Co as saying,  "The data suggest that in recent years, polar bears are arriving on shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn. Climate-induced changes that cause sea ice to melt earlier form later, or both, likely affect the overall health of polar bears in the area. Ultimately, for polar bears, it's survival of the fattest."

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