Polar bears lose weight during ice-free periods

Polar bears lose weight during ice-free periods

February 21, 2024

The predators choose different survival strategies without the ice from which they hunt.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Polar bears lose weight during the summer, when the ice melts and predators are forced to move to land. Researchers observed the Arctic hosts behavior off the western coast of Hudson bay – 20 animals lived there: 13 adults and 7 young ones.

On land, predators chose different strategies for surviving in conditions of food shortage: some moved less, others tried to hunt in water. But in the end, all the animals lost between 4 and 11 percent of their body weight over three weeks. At the same time, several young individuals lost so much weight that they could die of starvation.

Overall, 94 percent of the bears ate grasses and algae, 56 percent ate berries, 39 percent ate bird carcasses, and the rest chewed the reindeer bones and antlers. Occasionally, bears hunted bird eggs, rodents, Arctic hare, seals, and beluga whales.

The study results were published by Canadian and American scientists on the Nature Communications portal.

The reason is the increase in the ice-free period; this time in the Arctic is becoming longer and longer. Scientists fear that this will affect the survival of polar bears, especially young individuals, lactating females and their cubs.

For example, in the western part of Hudson bay, from 1979 to 2015, the ice-free period increased by three weeks – and bears began to spend about 130 days a year on land. Bears cannot hunt marine mammals without ice, so predators are forced to feed on carrion, plants, and algae; If you’re lucky, polar bears hunt land animals.

Previously, we told the story of the polar bear Marfa, whom Norilsk residents saved from starvation; now she is preparing for family life in the Krasnoyarsk zoo. Scientists have repeatedly expressed fears that due to climate change, the polar species could disappear.

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Text: Angelika Stepanova, Photo: Denis Kozheniko

February 21, 2024

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