It’s always sad to see dead animals in the wild, but the death of this 16-year-old male polar bear found dead on a beach north of Norway is especially tragic. After examining the bear’s emaciated body, researchers determined that the bear starved to death due global warming. Record high temperatures have melted arctic ice sheets that this and other polar bears need for hunting. Making matters even more tragic, this same malnourished polar bear was in good health when researchers examined it just three months prior in southern Svalbard.
Dr Ian Stirling, a Polar Bears International scientist who has been studying the bears for 40 years now, told The Guardian, “[f]rom his lying position in death, the bear appears to simply have starved and died where he dropped. He had no external suggestion of any remaining fat, having been reduced to little more than skin and bone.”
Dr. Stirling attributed this tragedy to climate change, citing that the sea ice in the Arctic dropped to record-setting lows in 2012. Satellite images from last year show that a rapid summer melt reduced the surface of the frozen sea to less than 1.32 million square miles, which combines to be a land mass just over twice the size of Alaska.
Climate change is particularly affecting polar bears because ice sheets are instrumental in their hunt for seals. Although they have webbed paws that make them incredibly good swimmers, they are still land animals and need the arctic ice to rest and haul up their catch. Ultimately the lack of ice packs will force more polar bears to migrate in search for food—as was the case with this bear, who moved from the southern to northern coast of Svalbard—hopefully to better success than this one.
via The Guardian
Lead image © Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images