When you think of animals living in the Arctic, the endangered polar bears are probably one of the first species which come into your mind. But, are the Polar bears endangered? No, they are listed in the red list of the IUCN still as vulnerable. With the appearance of pristine white fur that blends in with the snow, these beautiful bears pervade movies and folklore, though most of us have never seen them in the wild. At the top of their food chain, polar bears are incredibly important to the Arctic ecosystem. Unfortunately, their populations are dwindling, enough so that they are now considered an endangered species. It is estimated that only about 22,000 – 31,000 bears are still in existence. New research suggests that this number could decline by 30% by the year 2050.
The endangered Polar Bear stands on a large rock in Svalbard, Norway.
What can you do to help?
There are many ways to make a difference for the endangered polar bears and help them, whether directly or from afar.
Not everyone can leave for a month-long mission in Canada, but you can make a small donation to the causes you care about. Many organizations even have goods that you can buy with proceeds going to conservation efforts. For example, take a look at this shark bracelet, which lets you track a shark in the wild to preserve and protect marine life like sharks. If you want to take your contributions up a notch, why not host a fundraiser in your community?
The most direct way to help polar bears is to volunteer with organizations already doing great work. For example, you can lend a hand at the Polar Bear Habitat in Canada. There you’ll spend time learning about the lives of polar bears, monitoring the bears on-site, and collecting data.
Speak up whenever you see an opportunity to get involved in conversations about polar bears and climate change! Vote for eco-friendly policies and write to politicians to ask them to prioritize addressing climate change in their agenda.
Make sustainable choices
Where possible, try to make minor adjustments to your lifestyle to be more sustainable. This can include everything from modifying your primary method of transportation to changing where you shop for groceries. By taking small steps to stop climate change, you empower sustainable businesses and serve as an example for those around you. Your efforts do matter, so don’t give up! Here are some minor changes to implement.
- Walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation to work.
- Don’t fly in planes where possible.
- Stop using single-use plastic, from plastic bags to straws, bottles, and plastic wrap.
- Recycle and compost.
- Buy your groceries from local farmer’s markets.
- Replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
- Use the “eco” setting on your dishwasher.
- Disconnect and go “off the grid” for a weekend camping trip.
Where can you find the endangered Polar Bears?
Polar bears live in Arctic climates, primarily in Alaska, Canada, Norway (Svalbard/Spitsbergen), Greenland, and Russia. This bear species is called Ursus maritimus, or sea bear in Latin because they spend much of their time in the freezing water and on the sea ice. Their body has a thick layer of fat and fur that naturally insulates them from the cold. About 50% of their time is generally spent hunting ringed seals on the sea ice. When hungry, these wild bears eat anything, including us humans. They eat reindeer if they are able to catch, human garbage, as well as vegetation and birds.
A Polar Bear is strolling on a sandy beach in Svalbard. Information to purchase an image license.
What are the main threats to Polar Bears?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why polar bears are in danger and endangered.
Unfortunately, the biggest reason that polar bears are endangered is global warming. This is the most important long-term threat to their survival. Approximately 95% of a polar bear’s diet is made up of seals, which the polar bears passively hunt by waiting on top of ice for the seals to surface. As the ice caps melt, the polar bears have a more challenging time finding sea ice from which to hunt. Instead of finding food close to home, they have to swim and search in far greater distances, which often results in them burning more calories than the food can provide. Unfortunately, this leads to severe weight loss and, eventually, loss of strength and stamina. In sum, polar bears are dying out because of starvation caused by global warming.
Growing Industry in the Artic
While less influential on the lives of polar bears right now, it is a growing concern that more and more offshore petroleum and gas rigs are being built in the Arctic. If polar bears came into direct contact with oil, they could easily die. More than that, leaked oil and gas can pollute their environment over time and make it inhospitable.
As polar bears are pushed out of their habitats, whether to find food, as an effect of the ice melting, or because of pollution, they move towards communities. This is causing a spike in incidents where polar bears either destroy property or cause harm to villagers. Between 10,000 and 100,000 species on Earth go extinct every year. Let’s not let polar bears be one of them. Spread the word and make smart choices that will help preserve the habitats of these majestic bears!
This polar bear is searching the beach for food on the island Svalbard. More of our black and white animal photography you find in my B&W portfolio.
Some facts about polar bears
- The hair/fur appears white to us humans, but the hair is transparent.
- Their tongue is blue.
- One of the largest carnivores is the Polar Bear.
- They have about 12 cm / 4″ blubber under their skin, which keeps them warm.
- The most food they eat is the seals, but when hungry, they eat anything they can find.
- Female Polar Bears weigh about half as much as males. Males 800-1,300 pounds and females 300-700 pounds.
- A Polar Bear has 42 extremely sharp teeth.
- Grizzly bears and Polar Bears are interbreeding.
- The only females hold the winter hibernation when they are pregnant.
- They are excellent climbers.
- Polar Bears are on top of the food chain, therefore they are apex predators.
- Only around 2% of their hunting is successful.
- We classify them as marine mammals, as they spend most of their time on sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
- They can swim for days in the Arctic Ocean.
- Last, Polar bears are not endangered, yet! They are still listed in the vulnerable category in the red list of the IUCN.
This majestic Polar bear stands in front of the massive Nordenskiold Glacier in Svalbard / Norway. Information to purchase photography prints on my website.