Polar bears, or Ursus maritimus, are often, like Giant Pandas, used as symbols for organizations that fight climate change.
Since polar bears live in the Arctic, an extremely cold climate, they have several ways to stay warm. Although their fur is white, polar bears have black skin, which helps them stay warm by absorbing sunlight. Their white fur keeps them warm and also lets the sun through to their skin. They have lots of body fat and water-repellent fur so they can stay warm while swimming, which they do a lot; so much, in fact, that polar bears are classified as marine mammals. Polar bears are amazing swimmers. Using their slightly-webbed front paws as paddles and hind legs as a rudder, they can consistently swim for 6 miles per hour. Polar bears have been seen swimming hundreds of miles away from the nearest land. It is likely that they do this by floating on ice sheets.
Polar bears mostly eat ringed or bearded seals. They have to spend about half their time hunting because they only catch about 2/10 seals they hunt. They get around by floating on ice and swimming. Polar bears are one of the largest land carnivores and can weigh up to 1,600 pounds.
Why Are They Endangered?
There are many reasons why polar bears are endangered. The main, underlying reason is global warming. Other reasons that ultimately come back to global warming are an increased number of oil and gas companies, and hunting or killing of bears. Because of global warming, more and more of the ice sheets are melting.
Polar bears depend on the ice to hunt and to travel on. Without them, it is even harder than normal for polar bears to find food. Apart from the more obvious effects of climate change, the retreating ice is making room for oil and other industrial companies. Less ice means more space on both water and land for development. This means that more and more oil companies are likely to come. One reason this is bad is that increased oil traffic means that it is more likely for oil spills to occur. Oil spills are completely and utterly devastating to the environment. If a polar bear came into contact with an oil spill it would be lethal. Even if they didn’t, it would affect the entire food chain and eventually polar bears. Even a small spill in one part of the Arctic would have far-reaching effects. Even if there was no oil spill, there would still be a human disturbance.
The disappearing ice also makes it so polar bears need to spend more time on land. This means that polar bears, oil companies, and people are more likely to come into contact with each other. When polar bears are near humans, they can sometimes pose threats. Then they are likely to be killed. They are sometimes hunted for food, though there are many strict laws surrounding hunting, which has slowed illegal hunting. Because of the many problems global warming brings, polar bear populations are in decline.
Since polar bears are at the top of the food chain, they are important for controlling and tending to the overall health of the ocean it lives in.
The polar bear is also very important to the native people of the Arctic’s culture and economy. As the sea ice melts, polar bears are more likely to come into contact with people. This can be dangerous for both people and polar bears. They are also what is called an indicator species. An indicator species is a species that serves as a warning about the effects of global warming because it is directly impacted by it.
The polar bear is a clear warning that we need to take action to stop global warming and to help all the species, including us, who are negatively affected by human-caused increased global warming.
What Can You Do?
The main, underlying reason that polar bears are endangered is global warming. Global warming is a problem that we need to work together to solve.
The main thing you can do is raise awareness for polar bears and to all the problems of global warming. While polar bears are often seen as symbols of global warming, not many people know many facts about why they’re endangered or how they affect the environment. They need to know more and empathize to help.
You can also raise money and donate to the World Wildlife Fund. WWF is trying to help stop conflicts between polar bears and people, which are happening more and more often with the melting ice.
They are also trying to get more accurate numbers of how many polar bears are left. They also help companies have less of an environmental impact. All this can’t be done without money, unfortunately, so donating can be really helpful.
"Polar Bear." Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 Apr. 2020, www.britannica.com/animal/polar-bear. Accessed 24 May 2020.
"Polar Bear." National Geographic, National Geographic Society, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/p/polar-bear/. Accessed 24 May 2020.
"Polar Bear." World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/species/polar-bear. Accessed 24 May 2020.
*all pictures used with permission, and/or taken from the sites above.