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Considered talented swimmers, they can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. A polar bear might catch only one or two out of ten seals it hunts, depending on the time of year and other variables. Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive.


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Of those, the latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that one subpopulation is in decline Southern Beaufort Sea and that there is a high estimated risk of future decline due to climate change and data deficiency. Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears were listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act in May In some areas of the Arctic, female polar bears are more frequently choosing to build their maternity dens on land, rather than sea ice.

The land provides the stability and security that sea ice no longer can—at least until human activity comes into the picture. Polar bears are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Over thousands of years, polar bears have also been an important part of the cultures and economies of Arctic peoples.

DOCS: There's A Polar Bear In My Pool!

Polar bears depend on sea ice for their existence and are directly impacted by climate change—serving as an important indicator species. The loss of sea ice habitat from climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears.

Distribution

Other key threats include polar bear-human conflicts, unsustainable hunting and industrial impacts. Polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform from which to hunt seals, rest and breed. Bears must move longer distances to stay with the rapidly receding ice. In most areas, they come ashore when ice melts and rely on fat stores until the ice refreezes so they can go back out to hunt. In extreme cases—especially females with cubs— they may face starvation.

Traditional prey species may be less accessible in a new sea ice environment, and seals that use the ice are predicted to fare poorly in the warming Arctic region. Climate change is also resulting in more habitat fragmentation. As Arctic ice melts, polar bears are affected by increased shipping activities and a rise in opportunities for oil and gas development. As climate change forces polar bears to spend longer time onshore, they come in contact more often with Arctic coastal communities and others working in the Arctic. Unfortunately, these interactions sometimes end badly for both humans and bears.

In the Arctic, most industrial development has been on relatively small pieces of land. As summer sea ice retreats, a new ocean is emerging, which allows more opportunities for industrial development at sea and on larger parcels of land.

Description

At the same time, the retreating ice is resulting in more polar bears spending longer periods on land. Offshore petroleum installations and operations in the Arctic are expected to increase in number. This expansion would likely affect polar bears and their habitat in many ways, including the following:. Increased Arctic shipping represents a risk to polar bears.

As traffic by barges, oil tankers and cargo ships in Arctic waters increases, so do the risk of oil spills and human disturbance to polar bears. Many Arctic areas have strong polar bear management and monitoring. As climate change forces polar bears to spend longer time onshore, they come in contact more often with Arctic communities. Unfortunately, these interactions sometimes end badly for humans and bears. In Russia and Alaska, WWF addresses this challenge by supporting local efforts to protect people and polar bears. Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of involving local people to protect polar bears and communities.

WWF advocates directly for governments to recognize and mitigate the effects of climate change on polar bears. At meetings with governments whose countries are in the polar bear range, WWF has successfully pushed for a statement formally recognizing the urgent need for an effective global response that will address the challenges of climate change.

How the narrative on polar bears has become a problem for Arctic environmental groups

WWF has also successfully advocated for the creation of an international polar bear management plan. WWF supports community projects in Alaska and Russia to prevent unintended and potentially fatal encounters between polar bears and people. Local polar bear patrol teams help keep towns and bears safe.

Better lighting near public places, electric fencing, bear-proof food storage containers and warning plans for when bears enter communities all help reduce conflict. We bring Arctic communities together to share their expertise on effective nonlethal deterrence methods. Such methods continue to prove effective. WWF and our partners are working to understand the impact that different threats, such as climate change and the expansion of industry in the Arctic, are having on different polar bear populations. For many years, we have run a polar bear tracker , using data from WWF-supported researcher teams to monitor some of the animals by satellite.

By tracking these bears, scientists can map a polar bear's range and examine how habitat use may change in response to shifting sea ice. This information reveals changes and adaptations over time.


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    UK Edition. US Edition. Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password. Keep me logged in. Try Independent Minds free for 1 month See the options. Investigating the vanishing ice in the Arctic The scientists walk across a frozen Arctic Ocean, dark specks in a sea of white.

    Polar bear found lost in village hundreds of miles from home Rescuers plan to put animal to sleep with sedative and then airlift it home by helicopter.