Polar bears at this time of year should be out hunting seals on sea ice in the Arctic.
But, due to global warming, Arctic sea ice melts earlier and to a greater extent than it has in the past. It's what has scientists concerned that polar bears are headed toward extinction; even the Bush Administration, which has often been reluctant to acknowledge the threat of climate change, ultimately listed the polar bear as a threatened species a few months ago, because the bear's habitat is receding so rapidly.
And now, in an ironic twist of fate, the same scientists positioned in the Arctic to study and protect the Arctic's unique and threatened species have been chased away by a polar bear stranded on land by the rapidly melting sea ice.
Five scientists evacuated a remote camp in northern Alaska this week because the polar bear is stuck, unable to reach the distant sea ice miles off shore, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, whose scientists are there to study breeding shorebirds whose habitat is eroding as the ground warms and sloughs off into the sea. The scientists couldn't be sure they were safe, especially given that the bear could be hungry, separated as it is from its main supply of food.
"It is ironic that our efforts to understand how climate change is affecting wildlife were disrupted by the top Arctic predator displaced by climate," said Steve Zack, one of the scientists.
Photo Credit: Kevin Pietrak / Wildlife Conservation Society
Joe Liebezelt stands beside an eroding Beaufort Sea coastline in the Alaskan Arctic, where global warming is destroying habitat for some migratory shorebirds.
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