Thanks in part to funding provided by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, leading polar bear researcher, Dr. Andrew Derocher and his colleagues, have found that nearly 20 per cent more polar bears are eating less, possibly due to a reduction in their main food source.
Their study focused on polar bears in the Beaufort Sea where they compared blood samples taken from 1985 and 1986 with blood samples from 2005 and 2006. By measuring serum urea to creatinine (waste materials that are byproducts of metabolism) these scientists could determine which animals were fasting.
Their results showed that more polar bears are indeed going without food. The result of this fasting may be due to a decrease in ringed seals, their main food source, during a critical spring feeding period. The reason for fewer seals, however, is not known.
Possible explanations for fewer seals include changes in ice conditions leading to poor hunting success by the bears, periods of open water which may have made access to seals difficult, or possibly there were just fewer seals, as they too are impacted by changes in sea ice.
Understanding these population fluctuations may help CWF and the researching community in the future predict how polar bears respond to environmental changes, such as climate change.
CWF would like to thank you, our supporters, for making this funding possible. Together we are working to conserve Canada’s wildlife and their habitats.