Polar bears in Canada’s Western Hudson Bay — on the southern fringe of the Arctic — are persevering with to die in excessive numbers, a brand new authorities survey of the land carnivore has discovered. Females and bear cubs are having an particularly exhausting time.
Researchers surveyed Western Hudson Bay — dwelling to Churchill, the city referred to as ‘the Polar Bear Capital of the World,’ — by air in 2021 and estimated there have been 618 bears, in comparison with the 842 in 2016, after they have been final surveyed.
“The actual decline is a lot larger than I would have expected,” mentioned Andrew Derocher, a biology professor on the College of Alberta who has studied Hudson Bay polar bears for almost 4 a long time. Derocher was not concerned within the research.
For the reason that Eighties, the variety of bears within the area has fallen by almost 50%, the authors discovered. The ice important to their survival is disappearing.
Polar bears depend on arctic sea ice — frozen ocean water — that shrinks in the summertime with hotter temperatures and kinds once more within the lengthy winter. They use it to hunt, perching close to holes within the thick ice to identify seals, their favourite meals, developing for air. However because the Arctic has warmed twice as quick as the remainder of the world due to local weather change, sea ice is cracking earlier within the yr and taking longer to freeze within the fall.
That has left many polar bears that reside throughout the Arctic with much less ice on which to reside, hunt and reproduce.
Polar bears will not be solely crucial predators within the Arctic. For years, earlier than local weather change started affecting individuals across the globe, they have been additionally the best-known face of local weather change.
Researchers mentioned the focus of deaths in younger bears and females in Western Hudson Bay is alarming.
“Those are the types of bears we’ve always predicted would be affected by changes in the environment,” mentioned Stephen Atkinson, the lead creator who has studied polar bears for greater than 30 years.
Younger bears want power to develop and can’t survive lengthy durations with out sufficient meals and feminine bears battle as a result of they expend a lot power nursing and rearing offspring.
“It certainly raises issues about the ongoing viability,” Derocher mentioned. “That is the reproductive engine of the population.”
The capability for polar bears within the Western Hudson Bay to breed will diminish, Atkinson mentioned, “because you simply have fewer young bears that survive and become adults.”
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