The long fast has begun for the Western Hudson Bay polar bears. Every summer, they're forced ashore by melting ice and must live off their fat reserves until the ice forms again in late fall. The bears rely on sea ice to reach their seal prey. Photo copyright BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International.

7/18/2013 1:47:41 PM

Western Hudson Bay Polar Bears Back Onshore

With the ice melting out from under them, the hunting season has ended for the Western Hudson Bay polar bears. They're swimming to shore to start their long fast until the ice forms again in late fall. The first satellite-collared bear swam to shore this year on July 4th—not "early" by current standards, but a full month earlier than the good ice years of the 1980s.

The question now for the bears, writes scientist Andrew Derocher, is how well padded they are from the spring feasting season of fat seal pups—and how long it will take for freeze-up to come this fall.

"Variation in behavior, energetic demands, and hunting success means that some bears will be more vulnerable than others," Derocher says. "Every year some bears come ashore in above average condition, but just as many are below average. It's the bears below average that we're most concerned about."

In the Arctic as a whole, sea ice coverage this summer is well below normal, but higher than the bad ice year of 2012. Sea ice expert Cecilia Bitz explores the summer ice situation in her blog post, Watching the Sea Ice.

Saving arctic sea ice is all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. You can become part of the momentum for change by taking the challenges in our Save Our Sea Ice campaign.


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