A study tracked a female polar bear that swam for nine days straight covering over 426 miles. This long journey is the longest ever recorded for a polar bear.
Her journey started in the Beaufort Sea, where sea ice is shrinking due to global warming, Now, mother bears are being forced to swim greater and greater distances to reach land,… most of the cubs that follow do not survive.
Unfortunately, the cub that began this epic swim with its mother did not make it. The mother bear had lost 22 percent of her body weight when a researcher was able to observe her on land.
“We’re pretty sure that these animals didn’t have to do these long swims before, because 687-kilometer stretches of open water didn’t occur very often in the evolutionary history of the polar bear,” said study co-author Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for the conservation group Polar Bears International.
Amstrup is also the former project leader of polar bear research for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which led the new study. Another female bear in the study swam for more than 12 days, but appears to have found places to rest during her journey.
“Bears that engaged in long-distance swimming were more likely to experience cub loss,” said study co-author George Durner, a USGS research zoologist in Anchorage, Alaska.
Until 1995, summer sea ice usually remained over along the continental shelf of the Beaufort Sea, a critical habitat for polar bears due to its rich seal population. Now the sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas is retreating from the coast by hundreds of kilometers, Durner said.
I recently reported on how polar bear cubs where drowning due to climate change and this just magnifies the fact that the sea ice is melting rapidly. I fear that soon the polar bear will become extinct through no fault of its own.
Photo Credit: Northern Bird 8
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