Polar Bears are among the largest members of the bear family. Their white coat reflects sunlight and acts as a camouflage in their Arctic habitat. Males can grow to weigh as much as 1000 lbs and reach 11ft in length. Females are less in size and weight.
Polar Bears have partially webbed paws which allow them swim at a pace of approximately 6 miles per hour, for up to 50 to 60 miles without rest.
The Polar Bears population, could drop more than 30%, in the next 35 to 45 years. Polar Bears are classified as vulnerable and are the danger red list of threatened species.
Climate change, global warming and sea ice reduction
Polar Bears are highly adaptable to the Arctic habitat. But there has been recent declines in their numbers, this can be linked to the deminishing sea ice and it's formulation later in the year. There was an Arctic climate impact assessment in 2004 and it was reported that the covering of summer ice in the Arctic had shrunk by approximately 15 to 20% over the past 25 to 30 years, the deminishing ice sadly is expected to accelerate further. There have been predictions of even further reductions of between 10 and 50% of annual sea ice and between 50 to 100% of summer sea ice within the next 50 to 100 years would be a serious threat to the Polar Bear. In some areas ice is breaking up earlier, this is forcing bears to go ashore before they can sufficiently build up their storage of fat.
They also may be forced to swim longer distances, which may lead to exhaustion and drowning.
The Arctic is considered a dumping ground for environmental contaminants. Mercury, organochlorines such as PCBs and DDTs and other toxins are carried northwards in rivers, ocean currents and by the wind. The accumulation of these toxins is at a higher level along the food chain. Sadly it has been found by researchers that extremely high amounts of chemical pollutants have been found in Polar Bears. This puts the Polar Bears in serious danger of bone, mineral density loss, hormone imbalance and compromised immune systems. In female Polar Bears bone mineral density loss is especially devastating. Female Polar Bears must have large amounts of calcium and phosphate during its pregnancy and nursing. Harmful effects of pollutens can interact negatively with the nutritional stress, caused by global warming.
Melting sea ice has resulted in the opening of the Arctic to tourism and mineral and energy development and greed. As more people get involoved with the Arctic, noise pollution and interactions with the Polar Bears will sadly increase.
Polar Bears are already being harassed by photographers and tourists.
Oil and gas exploration is another growing threat to our Polar Bears. Companies are more than eager to exploit the mineral reserves in the Arctic and don't care about the great cost to the environment.
Another serious problem for the Polar Bear is that subsistence hunting is permitted in Canada, Greenland and Alska and sport hunting is permitted in Canada and resently in Greenland. There are increased quota's, excessive quota's or no quota's at all, in Canada and Greenland and there is poaching in Russia.
Polar Bears are rapidly lossing their habitat to rising temperatures, environmental contaminants and development and additionally the unsustainable hunting is threatening their populations. To save our Polar Bears conservation methods must quickly be put in place.
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