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The icy area in the Arctic lost nearly one million square kilometers at the end of 2017, compared to its average area established between 1989 and 2010. And the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), a semi-aquatic and omnivorous marine mammal made for ice floes, today embodies all environmental challenges, in particular global warming. This species is the first to suffer from the melting of its hunting territory.
Biologists spend the season each year in Churchill, in the province of Manitoba, Canada, to observe this bear population. Scientist Geoff York, who works with the Polar Bear International association, has studied it across the Arctic. « The decrease in pack ice reduces the hunting period for polar bears. In spring, in particular, if it does not gain enough weight before it melts, it will not be able to survive until winter », he explains to the magazine « 1:15 pm on Sunday » (replay).
« Today, we went from 1,200 bears to 850 »
« In areas like Hudson Bay, ice also tends to form later. Bears have to wait longer before returning to hunt seals and this affects their ability to reproduce », says the biologist. This year, the ice formed early: « Yes, this is a normal year. If we look at the evolution of the pack ice, there are always good and bad years on the data provided by the satellites since 1979. «
« The curve is certainly downward, specifies however Geoff York, and we think the same thing will happen to bear populations in the Arctic. If some will stabilize, we will see in some places a gradual fall, a bit like a staircase. Here in Hudson Bay, we’ve seen the population decrease by 24% in 30 years, from 1,200 bears to 850 today … «
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