Climate change may harm polar bear’s ability to hunt

A polar bear dries off after taking a swim in the Chukchi Sea, in Alaska. (Brian Battaile/U.S. Geological Survey/AP File/CP)
A new study shows polar bears travel crosswind when winds are light to hunt seals, but climate change means winds will grow stronger in the Arctic and that could make hunting more difficult for them.

Researchers at the University of Alberta followed polar bears in the Hudson Bay area for 11 years. They used GPS and satellite imagery to compare their movements to wind patterns.

Bears smell seal dens hidden under snow

Travelling crosswind gives the bears access to smells from a broader area and makes it easier for them to detect seal dens hidden under the snow.

It has long been believed that predators use their sense of smell and travel crosswind to find their prey. But this is the first time the behaviour has been scientifically confirmed in a mammal.

Hudson Bay polar bear numbers dropping

If hunting becomes more difficult that may make it more difficult for polar bears to survive. Diminishing sea ice is also a problem. The bears have to swim father to find ice floes from which they hunt and there are fewer of them. The population at Hudson Bay has already dropped from 1,200 to 800.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: World enters ‘uncharted territory’ with record-breaking climate change: UN report, Radio Canada International

Finland: Arctic wildlife in Finland already feeling the burn from climate change: WWF, Yle News

Greenland: Can we still avert irreversible ice sheet melt?, Deutsche Welle’s Ice-Blog

Norway:  January sea ice extent at record low in Barents and Kara seas, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Siberian erosion, river runoff speeds up Arctic Ocean acidification, Alaska Dispatch News

Sweden:  How will global warming affect the average Swede?, Radio Sweden

United States:  Warming ocean waters off Alaska bring widespread ecological changes, with more expected in the future, Alaska Dispatch News

Lynn Desjardins, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Lynn has dedicated her working life to journalism. After decades in the field, she still believes journalism to be a pillar of democracy and she remains committed to telling stories she believes are important or interesting. Lynn loves Canada and embraces all seasons: skiing, skating, and sledding in winter, hiking, swimming and playing tennis in summer and running all the time. She is a voracious consumer of Canadian literature, public radio programs and classical music. Family and friends are most important. Good and unusual foods are fun. She travels when possible and enjoys the wilderness.

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