Retreating sea ice notwithstanding, the polar bear population off the western coast of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea appears to be abundant and healthy.
A study by researchers at the University of Washington and federal Fish and Wildlife Agency says about 3,000 polar bears make up the population in the Chukchi. There’s never been a formal study done before the one published Nov. 14 in Scientific Reports.
The authors say that the bears have about one month less time on their sea ice habitats, compared to what they had 25 years ago. And yet the animals are thriving.
Although polar bears were listed in 2008 as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, this study doesn’t support the popular notion that the bears in U.S. habitats are suffering, although other populations of polar bears are struggling due to diminishing sea ice that they use to hunt sea mammals.
Other studies show the Chukchi polar bears are maintaining the same body fat they had 25 years ago; this study shows they have good reproductive rates and cub survival.