Climate change is making polar bears go hungry, study finds

Climate change is making polar bears go hungry, study finds

A latest study led by a group of researchers from US Geological Survey has found that some polar bears in parts of the Arctic are losing weights substantially while this is the time when they should gain more.

Scientists were given an insight into the bears' weight problems by fitting nine females with satellite collars fixed with video cameras over the past three springs in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay.

The bears' metabolic rate was more the 50 per cent higher than previous studies had suggested.

Alarmingly, five of the nine bears being monitored lost body mass while they were being monitored, meaning the animals were not catching enough prey to meet their energy demands.

Analysis of the bears' metabolism revealed they required at least one seal every 10 days to satisfy their dietary needs, but numerous bears were unable to capture enough.

A wrenching video published on National Geographic's website made that clear after going viral in December.

The new study came in the wake of a video captured by filmmakers in Canada showing an emaciated polar bear scavenging for food from bins.

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"We now have the technology to learn how they are moving on the ice, their activity patterns, and their energy needs, so we can better understand the implications of these changes we are seeing in the sea ice", he said.

"The high energy requirements of polar bears corroborate previous hypotheses that most terrestrial Arctic habitats, lacking prey as energy-rich as marine mammals, can not provide enough food for polar bears driven to shore by loss of sea ice", Whiteman wrote in a commentary on the paper.

Arctic sea ice is getting thinner every year, and there have been significant losses in the overall area covered by ice, according to the latest data.

That sums up the life of a polar bear. As ice is now vanishing gradually, polar bears cant hunt seals.

The data showed the bears were active about 35 percent of the time and resting for the remainder, yet they burned through 12,325 calories a day, much of it from their body reserves.

In 2015, after working with the accelerometer manufacturer, we managed once again to deploy 4 Global Positioning System video camera collars with triaxial accelerometers on polar bears.

"As they reduce that amount of time it follows that they catch fewer seals total and they are taking in a lower amount of energy".

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But scientists worry that ongoing climate-driven declines in Arctic sea ice, particularly during the warm months of the year, may be affecting the bears' hunting success.

Climate change is having dramatic effects on the Arctic sea ice, forcing polar bears to move greater distances and making it harder for them to catch prey.

'We found a feast and starvation lifestyle - if they missed out on seals it had a pretty dramatic effect on them, ' said a biologist who led the research.

Polar bears have been listed as endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the protection program repeatedly emphasizes the importance of climate change. That could explain the 40% decline in polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea between 2001 and 2010 as noted by an earlier study.

But understanding the exact relationship between the loss of ice and the plight of the polar bear has been a little murky because it's hard to track the movements of these enormous apex predators in remote regions. The study reinforces the understanding that polar bears are reliant on a diet of fat-rich seals to survive in the energetically-demanding Arctic.

Most of the time the bears tracked in the study did use the "sit and wait" technique.

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