Ice is hugely important in the lifecycle of polar bears, even in summer. Here are 6 reasons why:
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- 1. Polar bears’ favourite food is ring seals, and ring seals are hunted from the ice. If the ice has disappeared, the bear is forced onto shore, where seals can’t be hunted. When the ice freezes over in winter, there is little to eat.
- 2. With fewer seals to feast on, the female polar bears don’t gain enough weight. While there may be other sources of food available, the fatty ring seals provide a higher caloric content.
- 3. If female polar bears don’t put on enough weight, they are less likely to become pregnant or carry cubs to term.
- 4. Fewer pregnancies means fewer polar bears.
- 5. Polar bears also prefer to avoid each other. Less sea ice in the summertime means bears will have more frequent encounters with other bears and less space to roam.
- 6. The loss of summer ice is already having an effect on polar bear populations. Bears are resorting to eating nutritionally deficient foods such as kelp, and instances of cannibalism are on the rise.