Polar Bear Tagging Video | WWF

Polar Bear Tagging Video

Posted on
21 February 2004
Polar bears are the top predator in the arctic marine ecosystem and the world's largest terrestrial carnivores. They evolved from brown bears during the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago. The polar bear's coat, covering it completely except for the nose and foot pads, is superbly adapted to Arctic environments, where temperatures rarely exceed 10 °C (50 °F) in summer and typically hover around -30 °C (-22 °F) during winter.

Its Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means "sea bear", reflecting the fact that the species spends much of its life in or around water, or actually mostly on the water as it usually found on sea ice. As the southern edge of the Arctic ice cap melts in summer, polar bears follow the retreating sea ice. Some bears are then stranded and spend their summers fasting on land, living off body fat stored from hunting in the spring and winter.

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels - oil, coal and gas - are causing global warming. As a result, annual sea ice in the Arctic is melting earlier in the spring and forming later in the autumn. Research funded by WWF has found that this leaves many polar bears with less time on the sea ice to hunt for food and build up their fat stores, and increased time on land where they must fast. As their icy habitat disappears, the survival of the polar bear is at risk.

Although the species is not currently endangered, its future is far from certain. If current warming trends continue unabated, scientists believe that polar bears may disappear within 100 years. WWF funds field research by the world's foremost experts on polar bears to find out how global warming will affect the long-term condition polar bear populations.
Arctic wildlife is contaminated with the flame retardant deca-BDE.
© WWF / Kevin Schafer