NRDC Calls On the Obama Administration to Rescue the Polar Bear

Polar Bears Are Good Swimmers But They Need A Place To Hunt

WASHINGTON (RushPRnews) 02/05/09-After eight years of the Bush Administration’s “polluters-first” policies, polar bears are on a fast slide toward extinction. NRDC is urging President Obama’s new Interior Secretary to take swift action to reverse these disastrous policies and grant polar bears full-fledged protection under the Endangered Species Act. Even though extinction is looming as soon as 2050 for Alaska’s polar bears, Interior Secretary Salazar will be under extreme pressure from the powerful oil lobby to maintain the Bush “polar bears be damned” stance. That’s why NRDC is working to mobilize a nationwide outcry — one million voices strong — that cannot be ignored. Stand up for the polar bear and speak out now!

Global warming, caused by the buildup of man-made carbon dioxide, is causing Arctic sea ice to melt at an alarming rate. Over the past three decades the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by 1 million square miles — an area six times the size of California. Last September, the ice shrank to a level not expected to occur until mid-century. Most scientists are now warning that nearly all of the polar bear’s summer sea ice could vanish by 2040 — and many think it could happen by 2012, which could prove catastrophic for the polar bear. Unless we take effective action now, the polar bear could lose 100 percent of its habitat to global warming and become extinct in Alaska by 2050.

The polar bear is considered a marine mammal — like walruses, seals and whales — because its main habitat is sea ice. They need that ice as a platform for hunting, for travel to denning areas to give birth, and for mating. As their sea ice melts and their food sources decline, polar bears are forced to swim further and further to ever-distant ice floes. During these extremely arduous swims, polar bears are increasingly drowning. And scientists predict that as the movement of sea ice increases, some bears will lose contact with a main body of ice and drift into unsuitable habitat, making it impossible to return.

As temperatures increase, scientists also expect that more rain will fall during the Arctic’s late winter and spring. Unseasonable rains have already caused the snowy dens that shelter polar bear mothers and their newborn cubs to collapse, killing all the bears inside. What’s more, as a result of the decrease in sea ice, polar bear females may not gain enough weight to reproduce cubs with enough insulating fat, jeopardizing their ability to survive.

In the spring of 2006, three adult female polar bears and one yearling were found dead. Two of these females had no fat stores and apparently starved to death. Even worse, scientists project that by 2012 — just five years from now — most female polar bears in Western Hudson Bay may not be able to reach the minimum 417 pounds of body mass needed to successfully reproduce. Some polar bears have even been recorded cannibalizing other bears, including a female polar bear in her maternal den. This extreme behavior has never been observed in decades of polar bear study.