Issue Date: April 16, 2009
City: New York, NY
The female polar bear has been living off her stored fat reserves for six months – the two cubs have been living on her milk for the last three. She must catch a seal soon or the cubs will starve. Using her keen sense of smell, the bear locates a seal’s breathing hole in the ice. The bear crouches nearby and waits in silence for the seal to come up for air. The seal will have to surface soon, and when it does, the polar bear will be there waiting.
At up to nine feet nine inches long and weighing 1,500 pounds, the polar bear is the largest carnivore on land. The seals living on the ice packs have the energy-rich fat the bears need to survive.
The mother and cubs must consume as much food as they can before summer. At that time, the sea ice will recede and the seal colonies will migrate with it. For a stretch of three to four months, the mother and her young will live on land, waiting for the sea ice, and the seals, to return.
As global temperatures change, the sea ice is receding sooner, leaving the polar bear without food for longer periods. Now considered an endangered species, only 25,000 of these magnificent animals exist in the wild. “There will be no polar ice by 2060. Somewhere along that path, the polar bear drops out.” – Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation.