7/11/2012 5:52:31 PM

Churchill's Polar Bears Forced Ashore Early

With the ice melting out from under them, Western Hudson Bay's polar bears began heading back to shore last week ... nearly four weeks ahead of their average return date in the 1980s. Biologist Alysa McCall reports that several polar bears have been sighted on land since July 6th. Some are roaming close to the town of Churchill. Others are swimming in Hudson Bay close to shore.

The early loss of their seal-hunting grounds forced the bears to leave behind the bounty of young and naive seal pups that help them pack on fat reserves. Once onshore, they enter a prolonged fasting period until the Bay freezes again in the fall.

"Every day off the ice is a day the bears can't hunt seals," says Dr. Andrew Derocher, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta and a long-time scientific advisor to PBI. "But early summer melts and late freeze-ups are straining their ability to survive. There's a limit to how long the bears can fast."

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