Polar bears inhabitalmost all areas of the tundra region, with around 60% living withinCanada. Polar bears are at the top of the food chain with their onlypredators being humans and eachother. Historically they have beenhunted commerically and also for their hides, a great prize amongtrophy hunters.
This continued unregulated until 1973 when an accordwas signed to regulate practices and to conserve polar bears. TheAgreement on the conservation on Polar Bears was a landmark agreementinvolving Canada, Denmark, Norway, USA and Russia and it stillremains today.Presently the main concern for Polar Bears isloss of habitat and reduced access to prey and breeding sites due torising temperatures causing sea-ice loss. They rely almost entirelyon sea-ice because their main prey, the ringed seal, is highlydependent on it too.
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The ringed seal is the only food sourceavailable to them with a high enough fat content to keep themhealthy. Although polar bears are strong swimmers, areduction in sea ice means that they are being forced to swim forlonger distances between ice to catch their prey. Researchers havesadly reported that due to a lack of ice flows, there has been anincrease in cases of Polar Bears drowning from exhaustion.Conversely, if the bears decide to stay on shore then it is likelythat they will be forced into fasting until the summer period is overdue to the lack of prey available to them. This sometimes leads tostarvation and subsquently the death of the polar bear.
Human-polarbear interactions are another downside to sea-ice loss. Scared andundernourished Polar Bears have started venturing into residentialareas in search of food in Northern communities. The consequences ofthese encounters are usually tragic for both the human and the polarbear.Due to them living in remote and hard to access areas,it is difficult to monitor exact numbers and although there is nospecific data from some areas in Russia and Greenland, the ICUNestimates that there are roughly 26,000 polar bears left and as suchthey are now listed as a vulnerable species.Though at the top ofthe food chain and pose no risk from other predators, the polar bearhas clearly been put at great risk because of human interactions.Lack of sea ice is unfortuantely just the tip of the iceberg andother factors including oil and gas exploration, tourisms, mining andshipping are also adding to the loss of this beautiful creature.