Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Wonders: The Plight of the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

By Hal Brindley

When I was a child I had a white stuffed polar bear toy named Snowy.  He was my faithful companion for many childhood adventures of the imagination, and thanks to Snowy I have a special fondness for polar bears.  Today is International Polar Bear Day, and a good day to take a look at the threat to the survival of this marine mammal.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) inhabit the northern Arctic and spend most of their time on sea ice.  They are the largest land carnivores in the world.  Their diet consists mainly of young seals, but they are omnivores and can ingest a wide variety of foods if necessary to survive.  Females usually give birth to twins, who stay with their mother for about two years.  For more interesting information about polar bears check out this site.

Currently global climate change is considered the most pressing threat to polar bear survival due to significant melting of sea ice, which reduces the habitat needed by this species to find sufficient food.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stated that if present climatic trends continue, polar bears may disappear from most of their range within 100 years.  In 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

One of the best ways to save polar bears from their plight is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global climate change.  For suggestions on how to reduce your carbon footprint, websites like or are great information sources.  Another way to help the polar bear would be to become more aware of the politics involved and petition your elected officials to support any legislation that will decrease threats to polar bears.  Donations to organizations like Polar Bears International, Defenders of Wildlife, or the National Wildlife Federation will help them continue their work to ensure that this issue does not get ignored.

Rest assured that if we cannot reverse the trend toward extinction for the polar bear, the same fate will undoubtedly befall other species.  We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now, and we would be wise to heed the warning before it is too late.

1 comment:

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