Melting Homes: Are Polar Bears Endangered?

are polar bears endangered

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Polar bears are carnivorous marine mammals that are characterized by their notorious white coat, allowing them to stay warm in the icy Arctic regions in which they live.

These beautiful bears can stand between 7 and 10 feet tall, but don’t let beauty deceive you, they are incredibly dangerous to humans.

These bears rely heavily on the ice in order to travel and hunt their prey, and with global warming causing the sea ice to melt, it’s become increasingly difficult for polar bears to hunt.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the polar bear population and answer a question many of our readers are asking. Are polar bears endangered?

Yes, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the polar bear is currently endangered and is listed as “vulnerable”.

Are Polar Bears Currently Endangered?

Around the globe, polar bear populations continue to decline. Studies warn that polar bears could become extinct by the end of the century if we don’t enact strict climate policies.

These majestic bears rely on sea ice in order to move around and find food. With the ice melting at an alarming rate, polar bears are being pushed inland and therefore having confrontations more and more.

Not only that but as the ice melts they struggle to use their seal-hunting tactics in order to catch their prey off guard when their prey surfaces through their air hole.

Sea ice is not only critical for traveling polar bears but also for hunting, resting, mating, and maternal dens.

The melting ice has led to the Arctic-wide polar bears being listed as a threatened species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008.

Why Are Polar Bears Endangered?

Polar bears live in the remote icy regions of the Arctic where they rely on the ice to hunt, find food, and even breed.

Global warming is one of the main reasons that polar bears are currently endangered, holes in the ozone layer, oil and gas mining causing the ice to melt, and a reduction of seals in their habitat.

These bears spend over 50% of their time searching for food, and with only a 2% success rate it’s incredibly difficult for them to eat and provide for their cubs.

As the ice melts the bears are forced to travel further and further to find food as they become increasingly desperate.

Polar bears sit near the breathing holes of ringed and bearded seals waiting for them to pop up for air.

Without the ice, these bears find it incredibly difficult to catch their seals, which is why it’s more common to find incredibly thin and desperate polar bears in the Arctic.

How Many Polar Bears Are Left In The World?

Due to the polar bear’s natural habitat, they have become almost mythical creatures that many of us are only able to see in captivity.

In recent years there has been a lot of confusion over whether polar bear numbers are increasing or they are on the brink of extinction.

Brandon Laforest, a senior specialist of Arctic species at WWF Canada says that “confusion over polar bear numbers is justified, as some populations are increasing whilst others are declining.”

Polar bears can not be viewed as a whole, as researchers have categorized them into 19 different subpopulations, explained Laforest.

According to National Today, there are between 22,000 and 31,000 polar bears remaining in their natural habitats as of November 2021.

Are Polar Bears Going Extinct?

The polar bear is the youngest and largest of the bear species that is an apex predator in the Arctic region but among one of the world’s most vulnerable animals.

Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could be extinct by 2050 if greenhouse gas-fueled global warming keeps melting their Arctic sea-ice habitat.

Polar ice caps which these bears rely on are melting as global warming causes climate change. We lose Arctic sea ice at a rate of almost 13% per decade.

Over the past 30 years, the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has declined by a jaw-dropping 95%, which has had a huge effect on wildlife in the region.

The region is at its warmest in 4000 years and the Arctic-wide melt season has lengthened at a rate of five days per decade from 1979 to 2013.

Researchers say that the Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average, which is a clear indication that something drastic needs to change to slow this down.

How To Help Polar Bears

When it comes to helping polar bears, one of the best things you can do is start to become more aware of your carbon footprint.

I know you likely hear this all of the time, but it’s true. The less you contribute to damaging the ozone layer the more it helps.

Try cycling to work instead of driving your car. Transportation is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions therefore making your commute a little greener will go a long way.

It’s also a good idea to consider how your diet impacts the environment, and try to consume fewer animal products when possible.

If you really want to go the extra mile then consider raising money for an environmental charity that focuses on the Arctic region and specifically polar bears.

There are lots of ways that you can help polar bears, big or small, but all go a long way toward ensuring the bear’s survival over the long term.

Final Thoughts

Are polar bears endangered? Yes, their numbers are declining all around the world largely due to climate change and the melting Arctic sea ice.

Polar bears rely heavily on sea ice in order to travel as well as hunt and catch their prey. As the sea ice melts, they are forced to travel further inland to search for food.

These bears hunt seals by waiting at seals’ breathing holes for them to pop up and breathe, but as the sea ice melts these holes melt away and become harder to find.

It’s estimated that there are currently around 22,000 – 31,000 polar bears left in the wild, and if it stays the same these bears could be extinct by as soon as 2050.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading this article and have learned something new today about why polar bears are endangered and how you can help them.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share it with others who may find it useful.