Friday, February 02, 2007

"Polar scare: Stranded bears die"

For the first time scientists near the bears home in Beaufort, Alaska, are recording huge numbers of carcasses in the sea. Steven Amstrup said: “We know some have swum for up to 100 miles in a desperate attempt to find food or an ice floe before drowning. It is an increasing problem.”


Pregnant polar bears use land for dens

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - More pregnant polar bears in Alaska are digging snow dens on land instead of sea ice, according to a federal study, and researchers say deteriorating sea ice due to climate warming is the likely reason.

From 1985 to 1994, 62 percent of the female polar bears studied dug dens in snow on sea ice. From 1998 to 2004, just 37 percent gave birth on sea ice. The rest instead dug snow dens on land, according to the study by three U.S. Geological Survey U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

"We hypothesized that the sea ice changes may have reduced the availability or degraded the quality of offshore denning habits and altered the spatial distribution of denning," said wildlife biologist Anthony Fischbach, lead author of the study. "In recent years, Arctic pack ice has formed progressively later, melted earlier, and lost much of its older and thicker multiyear component."

"If Arctic sea ice continues to decline, we predict that the proportion of coastal denning will continue to increase until the autumn ice conditions prevent pregnant bears foraging offshore from reaching the coast in advance of denning," Fischbach said.

The study is likely to give ammunition to conservation groups calling for polar bears to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act...

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