Polar bears in Canada’s Western Hudson Bay — on the southern fringe of the Arctic — are persevering with to die in excessive numbers, a brand new authorities survey of the land carnivore has discovered. Females and bear cubs are having an particularly laborious time.
Researchers surveyed Western Hudson Bay — house to Churchill, the city referred to as “the Polar Bear Capital of the World” — by air in 2021 and estimated there have been 618 bears, in comparison with the 842 in 2016, after they have been final surveyed.
“The precise decline is loads bigger than I might have anticipated,” mentioned Andrew Derocher, a biology professor on the College of Alberta who has studied Hudson Bay polar bears for practically 4 a long time. Derocher was not concerned within the research.
Because the Nineteen Eighties, the variety of bears within the area has fallen by practically 50%, the authors discovered. The ice important to their survival is disappearing.
Polar bears depend on Arctic sea ice — frozen ocean water — that shrinks in the summertime with hotter temperatures and types once more within the lengthy winter. They use it to hunt, perching close to holes within the thick ice to identify seals, their favourite meals, arising for air. However because the Arctic has warmed twice as quick as the remainder of the world due to climate change, sea ice is cracking earlier within the yr and taking longer to freeze within the fall.
That has left many polar bears that dwell throughout the Arctic with much less ice on which to dwell, hunt and reproduce.
Polar bears will not be solely crucial predators within the Arctic. For years, earlier than local weather change started affecting folks across the globe, they have been additionally the best-known face of local weather change.
Researchers mentioned the focus of deaths in younger bears and females in Western Hudson Bay is alarming.
“These are the varieties of bears we have all the time predicted can be affected by adjustments within the surroundings,” mentioned Stephen Atkinson, the lead writer who has studied polar bears for greater than 30 years.
Younger bears want vitality to develop and can’t survive lengthy durations with out sufficient meals and feminine bears wrestle as a result of they expend a lot vitality nursing and rearing offspring.
“It actually raises points in regards to the ongoing viability,” Derocher mentioned. “That’s the reproductive engine of the inhabitants.”
The capability for polar bears within the Western Hudson Bay to breed will diminish, Atkinson mentioned, “since you merely have fewer younger bears that survive and develop into adults.”