Animals and Insects

Climate change is starving polar bears, cameras strapped to them show

Researchers found that most of the polar bears are losing weight, about 0.4 to 1.7 kilograms per day.

Polar bear with camera on takes video of another polar bear while swimming.
United States Geological Survey

Thanks to climate change, polar bears are not getting enough to eat.

Scientists from Washington State University and the U.S. Geological Survey equipped 20 polar bears in northern Canada with cameras strapped to their necks. What they discovered was alarming.

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt mainly ringed and bearded seals. According to the study, footage from the cameras showed that climate warming is melting that sea ice, and polar bears are forced to move to land.

“Although polar bears on land exhibit remarkable behavioral plasticity, our findings reinforce the risk of starvation, particularly in subadults, with forecasted increases in the onshore period,” the study read. 

During ice-free periods, between late spring and early summer, polar bears used many strategies to save energy, the study says. These included going on land to rest (as there are is less ice to rest on), fasting, moving less, and sometimes eating berries, plants, bones, antlers and birds. However, this didn't help much: Researchers found that 19 out of 20 bears lost weight, about 0.4 to 1.7 kilograms per day.

Researchers explain that in western Hudson Bay, where the bears were studied, the ice-free season has grown by three weeks from 1979 to 2015. This caused polar bears to spend about 130 days on land each year. Scientists predict that in the future, there will be an additional five to ten days without sea ice per decade.