polar bear, © Steven J. Kazlowski/NGS

Will We Act Soon Enough to Save Polar Bears?

Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan highlights the obstacles polar bears face on the road to recovery, and how we can fix them.

On January 9, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its plan for how to recover polar bears. The USFWS’s Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan outlines the challenges we need to address to conserve polar bears – from reducing human-bear conflicts to protecting dens of female bears and their cubs.

The plan offers goals to counter these and other hurdles polar bears face, including one action we can all partake in that is the key to saving polar bears: stopping sea ice loss from climate change.

Poster Child Polar Bear

When you think of climate change, what are the images that come to mind? Among the snapshots of monster coastal storms and raging forest fires, the key visual of climate change is an iceless Arctic Ocean, the polar bear’s home melting away. This picture is more than a dire image…it illustrates the vital connection polar bears have to their marine environment – stable sea ice.

During the late spring and summer months when the ocean freezes over, polar bears use sea ice to travel, hunt their primary prey – ringed and bearded seals – and rear their young. During the late summer and early fall when the sea ice melts away, polar bears are unable to hunt so they use the stored up fat from their summer feast as fuel until sea ice begins to form again in the spring.

But climate change has shifted this cycle, increasing the number of days and months in spring, summer and fall that polar bears go without their primary prey. As a result, and as the Conservation Management Plan outlines, polar bears can travel along the coast and wander into local villages to scour for food, leading to conflicts between the humans and bears.

There’s More We Can Do

Defenders is on the ground, striving for peaceful coexistence between humans and polar bears. We partnered with the community of Kaktovik to design and build improved polar bear-proof food storage containers – keeping people’s food secure from land locked bears scrounging for a substitute for their preferred seal meal. We worked with Alaska Native youth to create polar bear safety videos for their communities. We continue to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a crucial polar bear denning site, by supporting cutting edge maternal den research. And we work with Bering Strait coastal communities to increase their engagement with state and federal agencies to develop spill preparedness and response plans for potential spills – especially important due to increasing vessel traffic through the unpredictable sea ice in the Bering Strait, the largest marine mammal migratory corridor on the planet.

The Conservation Management Plan highlights the importance of the type of work Defenders is already accomplishing, and gives additional insight into how we can continue to aid in polar bear recovery. Defenders was at the table as this plan was formed, and we will continue to keep this document relevant to the critical needs of polar bears as new research and information become available.

Whether or not you live in Alaska, you can still rewrite the story of the biggest factor in the Conservation Management Plan: climate change. The plan clearly says, “It cannot be overstated that the single most important action for the recovery of polar bears is to significantly reduce the present levels of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are the primary cause of warming in the Arctic.” We all need to do our part. Steps like carpooling to work, using public transportation, buying locally sourced food and other carbon-reducing efforts may seem small, but they all add up to helping to slow sea ice melt, allowing polar bears to thrive in their icy home. If we each take action, it will make a huge collective difference to ensure that future generations get to marvel at someday seeing a polar bear in the wild.

Categories: Wildlife

22 Responses to “Will We Act Soon Enough to Save Polar Bears?”

  1. dawn malik

    climate change is hug and we still have years to go, but in this article I didn’t read anywhere a possible plan to help give these bears a hand up in the meantime, such as food t help get them by, is there something that can be farmed, or scraps from restaurants that can be stored in freezers and give to the bears while there waiting for the ice to freeze, these bears need help now not later. Or what about communities of fishers giving scraps, their has to be something until the selfishness of humanity we help.

  2. Bryan Kirshon

    Polar bears are on the verge i hope we can save these predators for the north American landscape and for the food chain where their at the top.🐻

  3. GABRIELA VARGAS

    HOY EN DÍA HAY UNA GRAN PREOCUPACIÓN POR LA PROTECCIÓN Y CONSERVACIÓN DE LA NATURALEZA, DE LAS DIFERENTES ESPECIES Y SUS RESPECTIVOS HÁBITATS. ESTA NUEVA ADMINISTRACIÓN GUBERNAMENTAL PUEDE SER UNA GRAN AMENAZA QUE PONE EN RIESGO LOS OBJETIVOS DE PROTECCIÓN DEL PLANETA, YA QUE PUEDEN PONER OBJETIVOS PARTICULARES Y DE UNOS CUÁNTOS SOBRE LOS OBJETIVOS DE CONSERVACIÓN DE TODO EL MUNDO. ES AHORA DE VITAL IMPORTANCIA ESTAR UNIDOS EN TODOS LOS ESFUERZOS Y EN LA LUCHA POR LA CONSERVACIÓN DE LAS ESPECIES Y SUS DIFERENTES HÁBITATS.

  4. Judy perry

    This message goes out to all animals that are illegally taken away from their God given habitat Please place powerful laws internationally and within the USA to police evil people killing etc our innocent god created creatures. Prayers daily for these beautiful innocent creatures😇😇😇🌹🌹❤🙏🏻

  5. Francoise May

    We are the cancer.of the planet.A plague that destroy the Earth the Animals and our own specie.SHAME on us if we do.nothing to save this home that we call Earth

  6. linda lindley

    WE NEED TO SAVE ____ALL __ WILDLIFE __ HUMANES DESTROY THE AIR __ SOIL__ WATER AND ANYTHING ELSE WE CAN GET OUR HANDS ON FOR ONCE DO THE RIGHT THING AND SAVE __ ALL __ WILDLIFE

  7. William Brill

    I agree with Dawn Malik in comments on Jan. 11, 2017.
    HOW DO WE INCREASE THE FOOD SUPPLY NOW FOR POLAR BEARS. It will take years to decrease green house gases to help the bears.

  8. Elizabeth Roberts

    Could we build floating islands to substitute for ice islands for the bears to rest while hunting?

  9. Christine Stever

    I have contribute to this organization as well WWF to help save polar bears. After seeing a commercial involving a polar bear and a cub. The comercial said that this polar bear travelled thirty days with no food and her cub. They were trying to find a patch of ice needed for their survival and the cub died. It broke my heart. .These magnificent creatures are at risk because of humans contributing to climate change.
    It is he least we can do

  10. Laurel Gress

    This may sound far-fetched, but has anyone considered the possibility of building artificial “ice floes” out of some plastic material or something with holes drilled so polar bears can fish for seals as they would through real ice? If feasible, this may be a way to tide the bears over until real ice forms during the colder months.

  11. dr. ernst per

    It would be to our eternal shame to condemn these magnificent animals, these polar bears due to no fault of their own but because mankind’s greed, carelessness and ,pirresponsibility continues to destroy their natural habitat at an increasingly alarming rate. How much longer will it take before mankind realizes, that once the polar ice has melted, the oceans have been fished empty, the rain forests destroyed,not to mention the countless species we, the most dangerous predator on earth, will have condemned to extiction, only because of greed, we will have succeeded in causing enough irreparable damage to our planet to it will no longer be possible to sustain human life. I guess we will then finally be satisfied

  12. brian girard

    The biggest threat to all life on this earth is GEOENGINEERING weather modification, SOLAR RADIATION MANAGMENT or what we call CHEM-TRAIL SPRAYING, That is whats causing most of this man-made climate change and this extinction level event that is soft killing all life on earth and destroying the eco-system . Please I beg everyone to research the facts and fight this now before there is nothing left on earth to salvage.

  13. Lois Perkins

    I hope we can. They are beautiful and don’t harm anything They deserve all the help we can give them.

  14. patricia

    Its all so heartbreaking. “We” are such a selfish beast. I fully believe climate change is real and we are the cause!!!! . And I agree with the gal that asked about scraps or anything, good thinking!!!!!….there just has to be a way. We made it to the moon after all..

  15. MARVA DROLSHAGEN

    WE MUST PROTECT THE POLAR BEAR AS WELL AS THE ORCA’S
    AND ANY OTHER MAMMALS . PLEASE HELP WHEN YOU CAN/ WE THANK YOU.

  16. Gabriëlle

    Hands off the wildlife…save the polar bears and try to eat insects…that make the world a better place

  17. CareBearWhiteBear

    There is almost nothing more tragic than losing our natural treasures and Polar Bears are truly treasures that Bless our Lives…I don’t understand how we can turn our back on the needs of these and other animals. A tragedy to see there numbers dwindle.

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