The Truth about Polar Bears in Danger
Although not currently on the endangered species list, there can be no doubt that global warming is placing polar bears in danger. Loss of habitat is a common reason for animals to face diminishing numbers in population or even extinction.
A vision in white
The polar bear may be the very trademark of the Arctic; highly recognizable for its pure white fur and large, powerful body. An interesting fact about the bear is that their fur actually has no pigmentation whatsoever. The appearance of whiteness is due to the fact that the hair shafts are hollow and each hair reflects the light. The white appearance is a camouflage against the stark whiteness of their environment around them to allow them to remain virtually invisible to their prey.
Polar bears are carnivorous, feeding mainly upon seals. Seals, while unable to breathe underwater, must obtain their food underwater. They swim about underneath thick layers of ice and return to surface “breathing” holes to get air or to consume their freshly caught meal. Polar bears will wait for hours if necessary next to these holes for the seal to emerge; when it does, the bear strikes swiftly to capture the seal.
While polar bears have no predators with the exception of humans, they face several dangerous threats. As global warming increases, the amount of glacial ice in the Arctic diminishes. As more and more ice disappears, so do the seals that rely on this surface to breed and raise their young. The effect of the decreasing numbers of the primary food source for polar bears means that their very survival is threatened. Indeed, offspring of the polar bear frequently starve to death as their parents are unable to secure the nutrition needed. It is speculated that at least 70% of polar bear young do not reach the age of 3 years. Fewer and fewer polar bears reaching sexual maturity puts polar bears in danger of extinction, as the population is slowing in growth.
The effect of pollution has also left its mark on the polar bear. As the struggle to provide fuel to people across the world continues, man has ventured into the Arctic to harvest coal and oil from beneath the icy surface. Wherever oil is being mined, there is the danger of oil spills. Environmental destruction is the result of these massive spills. For polar bears, the effects are devastating. The bears are well insulated in this frigid environment by two layers of densely grown fur and a thick layer of blubber. This well equipped body heating system often puts the bear at the risk of overheating, especially during strenuous activities such as running. When oil spills spread through the waters in which polar bears swim, their coats become slathered with the crude. This coating of oil on the fur prevents the bear from being able to regulate their body temperature. It also presents an issue of poisoning when the bear licks its fur in attempts to get rid of the oily coating.
Pollution is not only provided through oil spills, however. As polluted waters from more populated regions of the world flow north, they eventually end up in the Arctic, placing polar bears in danger when they eat seals that are contaminated by “persistent organic pollutants.” The contaminants are absorbed into the bear’s system, where reproductive capabilities are then affected.
Polar bears are one of the most recognizable animals on earth. While they are not currently on the endangered species list, thanks to the loss of habitat and pollution their numbers are quickly dwindling; putting polar bears in danger of extinction in the coming years.