The first formal count of polar bears in the waters between the United States and Russia shows that they fare better than some of their cousins elsewhere.
Polar bears are listed as a threatened species due to reduced sea ice due to climate change.
According to a study, researchers from the university and the federal government in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska estimate a healthy and abundant population of nearly 3,000 animals.
The trend for polar bears, which are dying out in large numbers, is forfeiting, and experts warn that the fate of Chukchi bears may face the same plight in the future.
Earlier this week, a controversial report by the Canadian local government found that the number of polar bears in the surveyed area was so high that they threatened the native Inuit populations.
The results were bitterly denied by environmental researchers who said that climate change has brought the bears closer to humans in search of food.
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The first formal count of polar bears in the waters between the United States and Russia shows that they fare better than some of their cousins elsewhere (file photo).
"In the short term, it's absolutely good news," said lead author of the new study, Eric Regehr.
He started the project more than a decade ago as a biologist of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and joined the University of Washington's Polar Science Center last year.
In the longer term, this does not mean that the bear population in the Chukchi Sea will be affected, according to the study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports.
"Polar bears need ice to hunt seals, and the ice is expected to decrease until the underlying problem of climate change is addressed," Dr. Regehr.
The study shows that there are differences in the global impact of sea ice loss on polar bears.
"Some subpopulations are already declining while others are still okay," he said.
Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on sea ice.
Less sea ice means less productive time hunting for ice seals, more time on land and longer, energy-consuming bath.
The polar bears of the world are divided into 19 subpopulations, including two in US waters.
In addition to the clumps of the Chukchi, the US shares the population of the southern Beaufort Sea with Canada.
The stress caused by the loss of sea ice in southern Beaufort bears was partly the reason why in 2008 the United States described polar bears as endangered species.
Fewer boys had survived in the second year, and adult males weighed less and had smaller skulls, according to the US Geological Survey.
The polar bears of the world are divided into 19 subpopulations, including two in US waters. In addition to the Chukchi clumps, the United States shares the population of the southern Beaufort Sea with Canada (file photo).
Researcher Steven Amstrup said the trends were consistent with changes in nutritional status likely associated with a decline in sea ice.
A recent study by USGS researcher Karyn Rode found that Chukchi bears spend more time ashore and have nearly 30 days less to hunt for seals than they did 20 years ago. Regehr.
He does not seem to have affected the population.
Dr. Regehr said polar bears have an amazing ability to build up fat reserves, and the Chukchi's rich seal population allows bears to compensate for the loss of hunting time.
The difference to southern Beaufort is obvious on an airplane, he said.
"It's visually striking, the difference being that I worked in both places," Dr. Regehr.
When ice melts, many Chukchi bears rest on Russia's Wrangell Island, where they occasionally find a whale or walrus carcass.
The Chukchi population study used data collected from about 60 polar bears between 2008 and 2016. Some were equipped with GPS transmitters.
The data was used in a model designed to estimate the population size of highly mobile large carnivores.
Blaine Griffen, professor of biology at Brigham Young University, said the study was good news.
"It's nice to see that there is at least one population that does better than others," he said.
The difference could be geography, he said.
The Chukchi Sea has a wider continental shelf with primary productivity that allows the food chain to support seals.
Research agrees with earlier studies that Chukchi bears would perform better than bears elsewhere, Handles.
The news came just days after the publication of a Canadian report stating that the bear population was growing in Canada.
The controversial report claims that nine polar bear subpopulations are increasing in size. This is in contrast to the estimates of conservationists. The WWF graph shows that only two small subpopulations appear to be growing (green), some others are considered stable (blue) and one for decreasing (red). However, there are still many uncertainties, as the white circles show
The draft report, due to be released later this year, claims that populations of polar bears are much higher than scientists estimate – and actually increase.
"Inuit believe that there are so many bears now that public safety has become a major concern," claims the planned plan seen by the Canadian website Windsor Star.
"Concerns about public safety combined with the effects of polar bears on other species suggest that the polar bear may have crossed the coexistence threshold in many Nunavut communities."
The controversial results discussed at Iqaluit this week suggest that "currently no decline is attributed to climate change.
"(Inuit knowledge) acknowledges that polar bears are exposed to the effects of climate change, but suggests that they are adaptable," the report says.
According to scientists, only one polar bear population is growing, but the report states that there are nine.
Polar bears have become one of the lasting symbols of the environmental cause (pictured on Somerset Island in Canada). But a new report says that bears are growing in numbers that they can not safely live with people in northern Canada at the moment
The results, which have not yet been published online, are input from Inuit groups in the northern areas of Canada.
Experts criticized the results as "simply wrong".
Andrew Derocher, a polar bear expert from the University of Alberta, agrees that dangerous encounters between bears and humans are becoming more common.
He says, however, that this is due to the fact that climate change reduces the size of sea ice.
"They will move into communities looking for food," he said.
An estimated 16,000 polar bears live in the Arctic regions of Canada, or 65 percent of the world's population.
It is estimated that three per cent – or 600 – are killed each year, mainly by Inuit hunters.
WHY DO POLAR BEARS HAVE TO SURVIVE ICE?
Ice loss due to climate change directly impacts the ability of polar bears to eat and survive.
The bears need ice platforms to reach their prey with ring and bearded seals. Some sea ice are above more productive hunting grounds than others.
Like other predators at the top of the food chain, polar bears have a low reproductive rate. One or two boys are born in the middle of winter and stay with their mother for two years.
Consequently, women brood only every three years. The bears multiply only when they are five or six years old.
From late autumn to spring, mothers with new boys lie in snowdrifts ashore or on pack ice. They appear in the spring with their new boys to hunt seals from floating sea ice.
Simply put, if there is not enough sea ice, seals can not pull on the ice and polar bears can not continue to hunt.
Measurements of sea ice in the Arctic at the end of September showed that the region has reached the eighth-most-favorable level of modern recording.
Satellite data showed that the Arctic reached its lowest annual size of 1.79 million square kilometers on September 13th.
While the Arctic reaches its summer minimum by this time each year, experts believe that the scale of climate change has declined rapidly, with dramatic decreases since the late 1970s.