Polar Bears at Risk

Polar bears evolved about 200,000 years ago from brown bear ancestors. They are the world’s largest non-aquatic predators.

Adult male polar bears weigh from 775 to 1,200 pounds, and are 6.5 to 12 feet long. Females normally weigh 330 to 650 pounds and measure 6 to 9 feet long. They top the food chain in the Arctic, where they prey primarily on ringed seals.

Biologists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in five nations: United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Greenland. About 60 percent of those live in Canada.

Click on the photo below to see the full gallery of polar bears.

Polar Bears

Click image to view photo gallery

As of May 2008, the U.S has listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Canada and Russia list the polar bear as a species of concern.

Experts in polar bear science predict that as the Arctic continues to warm due to climate change, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by mid-century; unless action is taken to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rapid loss of sea ice is their major threat. Others threats include pollution, poaching and industrial impact.

Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting and breeding. Summer ice loss in the Arctic now equals an area the size of Washington, Alaska and Texas combined.

Watch the video below to see a 30-year span of the age of sea ice, from 1979 to 2009. As you can see, the bright white ice diminishes more and more as each winter passes.

YouTube Preview Image

Dr. Stuart D. Strahl, President and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society and Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a senior conservationist from Polar Bear International, will be on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm to discuss the impact that climate change has on polar bears.

For more information, visit the links below.

Polar Bears International
Chicago Zoological Society
Polar Bear Presentation at Brookfield Zoo

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5 Responses to “Polar Bears at Risk”

  1. Jeff says:

    If you believe in evolution and know that 99.999% of the life forms that ever lived on earth are extinct, why should we care if the polar bear exists or not? Are you saying that this is the epitome of life on the planet and every species should be frozen in evolutionary time? I personally hope that the human species continues to evolve. Aren’t we taking the chance that we will stop the polar bear from evolving into an even cuter looking, more vicious, killing-machine. Now, if you believe God created the world and all the animals about 5600 years ago, then I would understand the need to preserve every single species exactly how they are today. If we save the polar bear what is next? Should we strive to bring back the dodo or the sabre tooth tiger or the mastadon? It is called evolution, not stagnation or de-evolution.

  2. oilonthebrain says:

    Really Jeff? You’re leaving out one huge factor in your evolutionary tale there – the process of natural selection. And there is nothing natural about humans destroying the earth, when in fact, they have evolved enough to be conscious of the destruction that they are wreaking on all species of this planet. And if humans are truly ever going to fully evolve, they must buck-up to their status of being at the top of food chain, take responsibility for their actions, and do something to save this planet. We know how destructive burning fossil fuels is, so now let’s stop doing it, just like we stopped dragging our knuckles and started walking upright.

  3. Jeff says:

    No, I didn’t forget natural selection. Just like the beaver evolved into a creature that builds ponds, we evolved into creatures that use energy. While I am no big fan of oil, and I think if Henry Ford had built an electric car, the world might be a different place. But then again we may be looking for places to store our old battery acid and lead. There are 6 billion people in the world, most have never heard a word about “evolution” or “global warming”, Do you think they are teaching evolution in madrasses in the Arab world? I am not saying we shouldn’t try, but we have to realize what the future probably will be. Whether right or wrong, my guess is you and people who believe like you are going to fail. To be safe I am planning on a warmer, more polluted world, everyday becoming more dependent on dirty forms of energy. You can spend all your free time trying to fight it, I will spend mine making the best of it, get back to me in a couple of years and let me know how satisfied you are with your choice.

  4. Marty says:

    Wow Jeff, while the problem may get worse before it gets better your apathy is appalling. Yes, creating a cleaner more diverse world is not everyone’s top priority and it will take lots of hard work and yes some of our valuable free time, but does that mean we should live in ignorance and just take and use all of the natural resources available to us today with a total disregard for our impact on future generations or is that just helping them to evolve and if they can’t adapt well they can just go extinct like the dodo?

    If people are unaware of the issues and maybe never heard of climate change does that mean we shouldn’t educate them? I for one hope we evolve into a more enlightened species that does try to educate the world (even the Arab world) on what our current disregard for the planet is having on our many majestic species like the Polar Bear and that we all can make some type of small behavioral change to make things better. I certainly hope your opinion is in the minority.

  5. Pattiwael says:

    From the perspective of this human being Jeff and Marty are both right. Changes are going to take place in our world and we should prepare ourselves to live in that altered world as best we can. Also, if we simply except the course we are on we will end up with a highly degraded, polluted, toxic world where our quality of life is greatly diminished. The “natural” world is slipping away at rates far beyond change expected from historical evolutionary processes. Human population increase and profiteering from natural resources can be seen as natural process. They have extreme effect on wilderness, wildlife, and our own quality of life. If one has a fatalistic and what I would consider an irresponsible perspective of the future, we can simply let things take their course and not try to guide the process for a better outcome for all people and for the wonderous natural world we are a part of. Our self-human-caused changes to the world can be considered a natural evolutionary process. In a sense, evolution is – whatever works, works. To live a free and responsible life I work for creating change for the better. High mercury levels in water lead to childhood development issues. Mercury levels are related to air and water pollution standards and their enforcement. We choose the level of mercury poisoning. It has a $ value. I would guess the poor suffer the consequences more commonly than others. How are we influencing ourselves to have such high cancer rates and autism rates. It is likely environmental, dietary, man-made. Polar bears will disappear except for a small % of survivors in a relic habitat or for polar bears to be eating a different diet or hybridized with brown bears. Global warming is set in place for this. Still we should turn this process around. The change should be legislated and enforced. I believe protecting the natural world and natural systems is in keeping with protecting ourselves and our own quality of life. I believe in a world for all inhabitants rather than short term economic gain for those with power fueled by greed. These are my values. They guide me. What do you value? Safety, health, social justice, opportunity for all…. ?? What do you strive for?