Polar Bears May Move North
Discovery Earth Alert, December 14, 2000
Thousands of polar bears that make their home near Hudson Bay in Canada may be forced to move north to survive melting ice caused by global warming. Environmental science professor William Gough of Toronto University's Scarborough College has spent the past six years evaluating the temperature and ice coverage of Hudson Bay, using records that date back to 1900. Polar bears normally spend November to June on the region's thick ice floes, feeding on newborn seal pups. The seal pup diet enables the bears to store enough energy to make it through the summer months on land. Gough said, "The length of time polar bears are able to spend on the ice is crucial because the weight they gain during this period determines their survival rates and the number of cubs they'll raise." The rising temperatures have already triggered abnormal behavior in the bears. Witnesses have reported seeing caribou being stalked and adult seals being killed on land. The bears have also begun to increasingly view humans as a source of food. Professor Gough said, "There has been a dramatic increase in bear and human confrontations over the past few years. Just recently, a woman north of Churchill was devoured and we're seeing more and more bears in garbage dumps close to towns." Gough chose Hudson Bay for his studies because it houses the most southerly polar bear population in the world.