Polar Cubs Dying as Their Swims Get Longer
I almost can’t even bear to cover this story because it’s so sad. But here it is: there’s an increasing number of polar bear cubs that are dying because their swims between ice shelves, where they hunt for seals, are getting longer. Why? Because the Arctic ice is melting. The mother and cubs are forced to swim much longer distances than they used to in order to find hunting ground. The tiny cubs often can’t swim the hundreds of miles between shelves. So, they drown along the way.
A new study from the US Geological Survey and the World Wildlife Fund, published in The New York Times, has found that the swims have definitely gotten longer over the past six years.
Researchers tracked 68 female bears wearing radio collars. Eleven of these females had cubs. Five of the 11 mothers lost the cubs during the swim. This is a 45% mortality rate, just for the swim. Cubs that didn’t have to do a long distance swim with their mothers only had an 18% mortality rate.
One bear even had to swim 427 miles to reach sea ice.
Another problem? The baby bears are small, and not near as fat as their parents. That valuable fat not only helps keep the bears warm in the cold water, it also helps keep them buoyant. The tiny cubs simply can’t stay in the water that long. And they also have to expend much more energy to stay afloat, says MSNBC.
This new study is a heartbreaking reminder of the consequences our actions have on the Earth, and the amazing wildlife that shares it with it. I think it’s important to share studies like this because it brings this situation home for many people. After all, we can all grow numb to statistics proving that climate change is real. And we can easily disregard weather reports, and even crop failures that occur around the world due to drought, floods and dangerous weather resulting from climate change.
But polar bear cubs, struggling to swim through Arctic seas, and dying before they have a chance to reach an ice shelf, tugs on the heartstrings in a way that all those numbers and statistics just can’t. It makes our actions, and the consequences, very real.