Stranded polar bears at Kaktovik, Barter Island, Alaska – in pictures

Freelance journalists Will Rose and Kajsa Sjölander captured these shots of stranded polar bears on the north Alaskan coast as part of 70° North, a multimedia project documenting the impact of climate change and resources exploration in the Arctic.
During the summer, many polar bears gather to rest and feed on hunter-harvested bowhead whale remains near Kaktovik, on Barter Island. But in recent years, dozens – possibly hundreds – of bears are becoming stranded on the coastal plain because they cannot reach the retreating sea ice.

The bears currently onshore represent 5-10% of the southern Beaufort population, estimated in 2006 by US Geological Survey to be 1,500 bears. Bears have always come to this part of the world but the large increase in numbers has only started in the past decade.

Ursus maritimus, the largest of all living bear species to adapt to the Arctic. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service: ‘The primary threat to the polar bears is the loss of sea ice habitat due to climate change.’ Bears are incredibly adaptive but unlikely to survive as a species onshore. Polar bears are the biggest four-legged carnivore on land, almost three times bigger than the brown bears that dominate Alaska’s interior. Food onshore is very limited and there is simply nothing comparable to a seal that provides a polar bear with fat and energy. Although some bears will adapt and survive, according to Eric Regehr from FWS, ‘It is inconceivable that 1,500 bears can survive and find enough nutrition on shore’

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 17 November, 2011.

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