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Conservation

Concerns

The Big Question: Are Polar Bears Endangered?

In short, no,
but it’s not as simple as that. They may not be
currently endangered, but multiple factors are
pushing them in that direction.

The polar bear population has been negatively impacted by climate change, seismic testing, toxic pollution, & oil exploration.

Climate Change

Global warming or cooling is the adjustment of the earth’s temperature over time

What is Climate
Change?

The adjustment of the earth’s
temperature over time. It is recognized as
global warming or global cooling.

Global warming is when average temperatures rose, while cooling means they’ve dropped. Climate change is especially concerning for colder areas, such as the Arctic.

Global warming is when average temperatures rose, while cooling means they’ve dropped. Climate change is especially concerning for colder areas, such as the Arctic.

How Does Climate Change Affect Polar Bears?

Since the beginning of global warming in
the Arctic region, researchers have been
concerned about the health of our polar
bears.

Warmer temperatures mean melting sea ice, which means there are less
opportunities for finding food before summer seasons. Arctic
temperatures are rising twice as quickly as the global average
temperature.

Less opportunities to feed

Studies have shown melting sea ice has affected polar bears’ ability to find food.

With summer seasons starting earlier and earlier each year, the bears are left with a small window to find food. When polar bears do not have a sufficient supply of food, they are unable to reproduce at normal rates.

Even when a cub is born, they are often killed as a result of mama needing food or starvation from lack of food. Global warming has led to a high rate of baby mortality, which can precede extinction. It is estimated that polar bears may potentially face complete starvation and reproductive failure by 2100.

Decreased Sea Ice

Sea ice coverage is shrinking by nearly
4% per decade.

Rising temperatures mean increasingly earlier starts for the summer
season each year, resulting in earlier and earlier annual ice melting. This
leaves the bears with a smaller window of which to find food.

Because of the decrease in sea ice, polar bears have had to swim for
longer periods of time to find land. Sadly, this has also caused a rise in
the number of polar bear drownings.

Seismic Testing

For the Arctic, seismic testing would take place on the
coastal plain and would involve large heavy trucks to drive
across the tundra.

What is Seismic
Testing?

The process of seeking oil and gas
reserves through the use of cosmic
torrents of sound.

Testers can enter the ocean floor by using strong air guns. Blasts occur
every 10 seconds for up to months at a time. They gather data about
what is beneath the surface.

This has the potential to devastate marine life. For the Arctic, seismic
testing would take place on the coastal plain and would involve large
heavy trucks to drive across the tundra.

How Does Seismic Testing Affect Polar Bears?

The equipment that is used will disrupt the area through vibrations. Specialists have claimed that there is no guarantee that any polar bears will NOT be harmed or even killed during this process.

Startles
Cubs

When denning cubs are disturbed, mothers may abort from the den too early, exposing their young to things they are not prepared for.

The private company that is seismic testing cannot promise to not destroy a polar bear den. When a cub is denning, they rely on their mom and the den to keep them warm, without the den, they will likely freeze to death. A mother may also abandon their young completely when startled.

Scientists have determined there is a one-in-four chance that seismic equipment will run over at least on den. This was concluded due to the amount and size of the equipment necessary for performing seismic testing. Along with the known concentration of polar bear dens within the region.

Toxic Pollution

The pollution of the Arctic and its food chain will damage the polar bear population, and their reproductive success rate.

What is Toxic Pollution?

Toxic pollution is essentially any contaminated water, soil, or air that is harmful or poisonous.

They can cause death, disease, or birth defects.

How Does it Affect Polar Bears?

When animals are exposed to these toxins, it stays within their bodies.

The Arctic food chain has revealed high levels of various toxic chemicals. These are contaminating the polar bears’ diet, which could lead to death, disease, or even birth defects. It also negatively impacts the polar bears’ reproduction, growth, and ability to fight off diseases.

Oil Exploration

Oil drilling and exploration efforts have resulted in leaks and oil spillage. The contamination of the environment is incredibly harmful for the ecosystems and its inhabitants.

What is Oil Exploration?

The portion of the petroleum industry that is responsible for exploring new crude oil and gas fields.

This is done through the drilling of wells and the process of
bringing the well’s products to the surface.

How Does it Affect Polar Bears?

The riskiest practices are offshore operations. These operations risk spills, leaks, regular emissions, as well as chemical drainage leaching into the ocean or onto sea ice.

Oil spills cause a reduced insolated effect of polar bears’ fur. These spills often contaminate polar bear prey, causing an issue upon ingestion. Ingestion causes kidney damage, liver damage, and other long-term harms. Along with the negative impact of oil leakage, the process itself can cause disturbance and destruction of habitat.