Society

Expert: Starved Polar Bear Died Due To Record-Low Ice Levels

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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A polar bear found dead in Norway was “little more than skin and bones” and died due to a lack of sea ice on which to hunt seals, according to a renowned polar bear expert.

The carcass was found on the arctic island of Svalbard, the northernmost part of Norway. In April, the middle-aged adult bear was tagged and deemed healthy by Norwegian Polar Institute.

“From his lying position in death the bear appears to have simply starved and died where he dropped,” said polar bear expert Dr. Ian Stirling, a professor at the University of Alberta. "He had no external suggestion of any remaining fat, having been reduced to little more than skin and bone."

Ashley Cooper, the photographer who took the picture of the bear, called the bear’s condition “desperately sad.”

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“There was just no fat on it. It was just completely shrunken and shriveled, a very, very skinny specimen of a polar bear,” he said. “It looked basically like a rug because there was just no weight on it at all.”

Polar bears have a diet consisting almost entirely of seals, and they rely heavily on thick patches of ice to hunt the seals from. But these hunting platforms are disappearing.

According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, arctic sea ice reached record low levels in 2012, suggesting that more trouble is on the way for animals that rely on ice for their survival.

Cooper saw these diminishing ice levels first hand during his recent arctic expedition.

“We had to push up until 550 miles from the North Pole before we found any sea ice,” Cooper said. Once Cooper and his team finally did come across sea ice, “it was very patchy and broken up and thin, only just about holding the weight of a polar bear.”

In addition to the dead polar bear, Cooper said he encountered five live bears on his trip. Three of the bears looked “quite thin and not in great condition.”

Cooper says this fate is “what [all] polar bears have got to look forward to over the next 10 to 20 years. There isn’t a future for them unless we can very rapidly get on top of climate change.”

While many politicians and businesses continue to deny anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, the global scientific community keeps producing research that confirms the reality of climate change.

In fact, there is not one major scientific organization or national academy of science in the world that denies the existence of anthropogenic climate change. 

Sources: NBC News, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Wikipedia