What can you do?
There are approximately 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide. About 15,000 of these bears live, split into 13 different groups, in Canada's northern areas. Some of these groups of polar bears are feeling the effects of climate change, while others have so far been unaffected. The Hudson Bay Polar bears, due to their location, seem to be suffering the most. There is evidence of declines in body condition, reproduction and survival rate (22% decline in the latter between 1987 and 2004). Dr. Marty Obbard of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and his team has been tracking Polar bears with GPS collars. The data they have gathered shows that bears move hundreds of miles a year across Hudson Bay and James Bay. Dr. Obbard has monitored individual bears over periods of up to 15 years, and their weight loss has been well documented.
The sea ice in Hudson Bay has been melting earlier each year. This shortens the period during which Polar bears can find seals to eat while also extending the period of time that the polar bears must fast due to lack of food. For females, this can result in giving birth to smaller cubs that will have a lower survival rate. Needless to say, fewer cubs surviving to adulthood will reduce the Polar bears' overall population.
The Polar bear has changed as it adapted to the sea ice. Now, it is this habitat that is changing - rapidly. If the sea ice is lost, the Polar bears will follow.