The latest data on polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea – which stretches across the top of America and Canada – shows a 40 percent population drop between 2001-2010 from 1,500 to 900 individuals.
Global warming has caused sea ice to melt, depriving bears of their homes and hunting grounds. This September, there was an average of 1.9 million square miles of sea ice in the Arctic ocean. That’s 575,000 square miles less than the average between 1981 and 2010.
The problem is immediate: On Boxing Day, temperatures soared to a record 19.4C on the island of Kodiak – the highest December reading ever recorded in Alaska.
Polar bears, with their 42 razor sharp teeth, paws the size of dinner plates and 4 inches of fat under their black skin and white fur are some of the most resilient mammals on the planet. But scientists believe that climate change has driven them away.
Far to the west, on Russia’s Wrangel Island in the neighbouring Chukchi sea, the population has grown significantly, with scientists counting a record 747 bears in 2020, up from 589 in 2017.
The overall number of polar bears in the Chukchi sea has ballooned to 3,000 and they are described as being “in better condition, larger, and appeared to have higher reproductive rates than bears inhabiting the southern Beaufort Sea,” by Dr Karyn Rode, from the Alaska Science Centre.