Ice Hunting Grounds for Polar Bears Shrinking Quickly

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September 18, 2016

Global warming is increasingly unkind to polar bears.

A new large study conducted during four decades has found that every Arctic region that polar bears call home has seen a drop in the number of days on which they can access their primary hunting ground, sea ice. It is common practice for these white cold-weather bears to hover near the edge of a block of sea ice, waiting for unsuspecting seals and other marine animals to wander by; with less ice comes more necessity for the polar bears to roam more on land, where prey is less numerous. One report out of Russia recently found that a group of bears were stalking the scientists at an Arctic weather outpost.

Scientists tracked satellite data in 19 regions from 1979 to 2015, noting the date on which the sea ice began to melt and then began to refreeze, with final calculations of the amount of sea ice on the days in between. Results showed that the number of days on which sea ice was present had declined. The largest decline, found in the Barents Sea, was a difference of 17 weeks during the length of the study.

The study appeared recently in the journal The Cryosphere.

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