Polar Bears Starving Due to Climate Change, Researchers Confirm

To achieve this, they calculated the bear would need to eat either one adult ringed seal, three subadult seals or 19 newborn ringed seal pups every 10-12 days to remain in energy balance.

Scientists have answered that question, by mounting GoPro cameras around the necks of the Arctic beasts.

"You're talking a pretty awesome amount of mass to lose", said US Geological Survey wildlife biologist Anthony Pagano, lead author of the study.

The Polar bears are facing a fast-paced decline as they are unable to find enough seals to eat, under the harsh weather conditions.

But while the videos are a fascinating insight into creatures not often seen up close, the results of the study were grim.

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"We've been documenting declines in polar bear survival rates, body condition, and population numbers over the past decade", Pagano said in a statement.

Lead researcher Anthony Pagano noted that the polar bears were monitored during the period that polar bears catch most of their prey, and are expected to put on most of the body mass needed to sustain them throughout the year. As ice is now vanishing gradually, polar bears cant hunt seals. "Unfortunately, with the rapid environmental changes occurring in Arctic sea ice, the specialization that once allowed polar bears to live in this challenging habitat has painted the animals into a physiological corner and led to devastating consequences", said wildlife eco-physiologist Terrie Williams, a study co-author who heads the university's Center for Marine Mammal Research and Conservation.

As climate change continues to have dramatic effects on the Arctic sea ice, polar bears are forced to cover greater distances, making it harder for them to catch prey. Despite what you may have heard, the sea ice that makes up their hunting grounds has been diminishing by about 14 percent a decade, and the ice that does form freezes later and melts earlier.

What the scientists found is that five of the bears lost weight and four of them lost 2.9 to 5.5 pounds (1.3 to 2.5 kilograms) per day.

While summer is a feasting period for other bear species, for polar bears it is a time of hunger.

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Polar bears are starving during their prime hunting period as Arctic ice melts because of climate change, according to a United States study published Thursday that analysed the animals' metabolism for the first time.

"The chain of logic that everyone is concerned about is that the melting of sea ice reduces the amount of time that bears get to spend on sea ice in the productive regions where seals are concentrated", said Professor Whiteman, who wrote a commentary in Science.

The metabolic rates Pagano and his fellow researchers observed were, on average, 50 percent higher than previous studies predicted.

Even today, in the middle of the bitter cold Arctic winter, satellites show there is about 770,000 square miles less sea ice than the 1981 to 2010 median (That's an area larger than Alaska and California combined). A few of the bears travelled more than 155 miles (250 kilometres ) in about 10 days off the northern coast of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea, Pagano said. "And if they don't do that they're going to lose weight".

"In the Beaufort Sea we are seeing that the ice is retreating much further to the north than it had historically", Mr Pagano said.

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  • Israel Montgomery