We hear endlessly about the polar bears ‘forced’ to go without food for months because of receding summer sea ice — what about all the bears that stay out on the ice over the summer? Presumably, those bears keep hunting for seals – but how many do they actually catch?
[Update 9 February 2015: Just to be clear, this post is based on the facts available in the peer reviewed literature — if you think I have missed something, let me know via the “Contact us” page above]
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic, Beaufort, Central Canadian Arctic, declining sea ice, fall, feeding, feeding platform, gorging, hunting, hyperphagia, Pilfold, polar bear, seal kills, seal pups, seasons, spring, Stirling, summer, terrestrial foods, winter
The freeze is on: from an annual low of ~5.1 m sq km at 15 September 2014, the sea ice that provides a hunting platform for polar bears is rapidly reforming.
Note that polar bear habitat world-wide is pretty well defined by the extent of sea ice in spring, with three notable exceptions. There are no polar bears (or fossil evidence of polar bears), in the Sea of Okhotsk, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or the Baltic Sea.
Bears in some areas spend time on land in late summer/early fall but the amount of time varies widely.
Have a look at the maps below: the difference in regional coverage between the sea ice at 4 August and 16 October (73 days apart, both covering 7.3 mkm2) might surprise you.