Polar bears go hungry as the Arctic ice melts

Polar bears find it hard to catch enough food, even in the best hunting season

Polar bears find it hard to catch enough food, even in the best hunting season

Ominously, he found that five of his nine bears lost weight during the study, up to 10 per cent of their body mass.

They collared nine adult female polar bears on the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea in Alaska with a Global Positioning System video camera and observed the bears for discreet time periods over three consecutive years.

"Either way, it's an issue of how much fat they can put on before the ice starts to break up, and then how much energy are they having to expend", Pagano said.

"This study really helps to better understand some of their basic biology, so we can come to understand how changing ice conditions might be influencing their energy demands".

While summer is a feasting period for other bear species, for polar bears it is a time of hunger.

Polar bears, already struggling as climate change melts Arctic sea ice, need more food to survive than previously thought, US researchers said Thursday. Their metabolic rate was found to about 60 percent higher than was previously thought, and to meet that high requirement of energy, they need to consume a lot of fat-rich prey, like seals.

This is a polar bear still-hunting at a seal hole on the sea ice of the southern Beaufort Sea.

One bear lost close to 44 pounds, including her lean muscle, in 10 days.

An adult ring seal can weigh up to 70 kilograms, according to the website sealingnunavut.ca.

They blame global warming for the dwindling ice cover on the Arctic Ocean that bears need for hunting seals each spring.

Most of the time the bears tracked in the study did use the "sit and wait" technique.

"You're talking a pretty awesome amount of mass to lose", said U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Anthony Pagano, lead author of a new study in Thursday's journal Science. "They need to be catching more seals than would have been predicted previously".

"It was quite fascinating and really exciting to watch", said Pagano.

To measure the animals' energy expenditure, they dosed the bears with doubly labeled water - water molecules whose hydrogen and oxygen atoms had been replaced with heavier isotopes with extra neutrons.

Pagano's team studied the bears in a period during April over the course of three years, from 2014 to 2016, in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska.

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"How activity patterns and forging success rates might vary between regions and times of year is hard to speculate". So by taking blood and urine samples before and after the observation period, the researchers could track how much the polar bears had been working.

'[The sea ice] used to be solid frozen all year long but it's not like that anymore.

The researchers monitored the bears' activity levels and metabolic rates while they hunted.

Nobody has more history and experience with polar bears in the Beaufort Sea than the North's Indigenous people.

Kuptana, 75, was born in an Igloo nearly 100 kilometres north of Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., on the eastern shores of the Beaufort Sea on Victoria Island.

That sums up the life of a polar bear.

As more sea ice melts in a warming Arctic, polar bears are forced to travel longer distances to find prey, as well as move farther north with the retreating ice in the summer.

"If it's bad for polar bears, it might be affecting us in other ways - us being humans", Durner said.

Robert Kuptana, 75, has been hunting polar bears since he was 13.

Mr Pagano said the next step was to study what happened to polar bears throughout the year, particularly when the ice breaks up and the bears move further north with the ice.

A recent widely-shared video of an emaciated polar bear is a "horrible scene that we will see more of in the future and more quickly than we thought", according to Dr Steven Amstrup, who led polar bear research for 30 years in Alaska.

He said Inuit traditional knowledge used to guide the hunt is something scientists may at times overlook.

The findings put grim numbers to the reality that polar bears face as sea ice continues to retreat, researchers said.

"His home is in the ice and snow".

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