We probably don’t need any further proof that we are destroying the environment with our actions, but here’s one more anyways: polar bears are having to go on epic journeys just to find some ice. While some of us get annoyed having to walk down a hallway to grab ice while staying in a hotel, how about travelling 700 kilometres to find the frozen stuff?! A recent study on polar bear movement has found out some shocking facts, the biggest being that one female bear studied swam nine days and nearly 700 kilometres non-stop to find ice in the sea! The bear lost 22% of her body fat, not to mention a cub, in her journey through the Beaufort Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean above the Northwest Territories and Alaska.
“It’s pretty remarkable. That’s the longest that’s ever been recorded for bear swimming non-stop,” a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist and lead author of the study, Anthony Pagano, told the Toronto Star. “Historically, there just wasn’t this extensive amount of open water that bears would be forced to swim (in).”
The results of the study, which used GPS tracking on 68 bears between 2004 and 2009, were presented in Ottawa, Canada last week at the International Bear Association Conference. Ice volume in the sea is reportedly 47% lower than it was in 1979, which forces bears to swim longer distances to reach ice and, subsequently, food. The average distance a bear swam per outing in the study was 150 kms, but the trips got longer and longer as the study progressed, further illustrating that the bears were finding it harder to find ice as the years went by.
“About a quarter of our . . . bears had these (greater than 50 km) swims in 2004,” Pagano reported. “And in 2009, just over 60 per cent had swims.”
These long road trips are tough on the adult bears, and can prove to be fatal to their young offspring. Of the 11 bears who had cubs with them at the start of their trip, only six of them got their youngsters to land safely.