Another record low

The future of Polar Bears?

Yesterday the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) announced that the maximum extent of sea ice for this winter was most likely reached on March 24. With 14.52 square kilometers (5.607 square miles) the smallest amount of sea ice at the end of winter since the start of the satellite measurements. Looking at the amount of ice around Spitsbergen one can only fear for the conditions the bears will face and have faced this winter. The ice returned very late around the main denning areas (in the Southeast), meaning that pregnant females had a long swim (costing precious fat reserves needed to raise their cubs) to reach those denning sites.

It also makes me wonder what bears we will see this summer. With only little ice around at the end of winter, chances are there is even less ice in summer. For Polar Bears this ice is very important as it forms the platform where they hunt seals, who need it in turn to feed, reproduce and rest. Little ice means little food for the seals and therefor little possibilities for the bears to feed.

Will the bears I will see this summer all look like this one? Very desperate and very thin? I hope not, but I’m afraid it will be a very difficult summer for them…

disclaimer: This bear was photographed in 2005 when there was a decent amount of pack ice around Spitsbergen. A few kilometers away, on the same ice field, another bear roamed around. This bear was in decent condition, apparently there was enough to eat and something else might have been wrong with this bear. This picture has, most likely, nothing to do with climate change. But for me it was still a good way to show what is going on there…

7 comments on “Another record low”

  1. I don’t want to press the like button here. The conditions for them is horrific. I just saw another nature program on TV last night showing a starving bear 300 metres up on a cliff with nesting birds – trying to eat their eggs. A strange and so sad sight. I’m afraid their destiny is outlined. A nordic team also managed to film the new hunting the bears have to do – diving into the seal holes in the ice and up again catching them.

    • Hi Leya

      Yes, I understand your feeling. I’ve seen that documentary as well and I’ve even seen it in real live (https://natureviewphotography.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/of-bears-and-cliffs-part-i/ and the next 3 posts).
      Polar Bears are very adaptive, finding new ways to find food all the time. A few bears manage to survive on goose eggs in the western parts of the archipelago, something they have figured out in the past 10 years. The big question however is if this will be enough and if there are enough options like this for them to survive the coming decades…

      Thanks for your reply.

      Arjen

      • I had seen two of your photos before – but apparently forgotten, as i was stunned by the TV program yesterday. What a sight.

  2. So sad about the bears, penguins, krill, all of it.


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