Climate crisis forcing polar bears from Alaska to Russia

Climate change is forcing polar bears to ditch Alaska for Russia, according to American scientists.

The animals are seeking out new homes and hunting grounds because of melting sea ice, reports the Telegraph.

The number of bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea – an outlying sea of the Arctic Ocean situated north of Canada and Alaska – dropped from 1,500 to 900 between 2000 and 2010 according to the Alaska Science Center of the US Geological Survey.

Meanwhile Russia’s Wrangel Island in the neighbouring Chukchi sea – where food is abundant – has seen a record 747 bears in 2020, up from 589 in 2017.

Herman Ahsoak, a whaling captain from Utqiagvik, Alaska, told the Telegraph: “It wasn’t always like this.

“Back in the late 1990s there were 127 here. I had never seen so many in my life. We had a dedicated patrol team to keep watch and protect the town.

“But when the sea ice really started to retreat, we stopped seeing them so often. I’m sure there is still a healthy population, but they have mostly moved on from here.”

In recent years, polar bears in the Beaufort Sea have had to travel far outside of their traditional hunting grounds which has contributed to an almost 30 per cent decrease in their population, according to a recent study by Washington State University.

Polar bears are Arctic dwellers, a region that is heating at four times the rate of the rest of the world, as reported by NASA scientist Peter Jacobs.

Somewhere between 21,000 to 30,000 polar bears are now left in the wild, but estimating whether there is a decline in adult population numbers is tricky due to a lack of long-term data.

Anthony Pagano, a postdoctoral researcher in Washington State University’s School of the Environment, said: “Having to travel farther means these bears are expending more energy which can threaten their survival.

"If we want to preserve the habitat of these amazing mammals, then we need to focus on the root of the problem, which is slowing global climate change."