According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, this past October had the second-lowest Arctic ice extent for the month over the period 1979-2009. Okay, so what you may ask? The implications are actually numerous and extremely disturbing…
However, we are going to look at only one of these many implications. What does the increasingly shrinking Arctic ice mean to the polar bears, and also to your potential for future encounters with them? In a meeting earlier this month in Western Canada, scientists got together to discuss how humans can better manage their interactions with polar bears. As a result of shrinking ice sheets, polar bears continue to make their way further inland, staying and living longer on shore instead of on ice. The ice sheets the bears have historically travelled and lived on continue to break up at alarming rates; forcing the bears from their natural habitat as they seek out alternative locations to hunt, mate and raise their young.
In an interesting and related story this week, an Australian scientist Dr. James Watson looks more closely at one of the results of this inland polar bear migration. He discusses how climate change is speeding up the creation of new species, one in particular, being the “Grolar Bear, “ a cross between the polar and grizzly bears. The Grolar was first observed in the wild in 2006 and Dr. Watson explains that as climate change alters the habitat in which the polar bear lives, nature is forcing them to roam farther afield, and different species “are being forced together” as nature takes its course! As these two species of bears are actually genetically quite similar, the Grolar bear is not an unexpected outcome. So, if you are planning on visiting one of the communities that borders on the Arctic Ocean, your chances of seeing a Polar Bear, or even a Grolar Bear, seem to be on the rise! Share this story with your kids, if they haven’t met a Grolar Bear” yet, they will certainly want to!
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