Polar Bears Drowning as Ice Melts, Scientists Say

By Dave Porter

Fairbanks, AK - Scientists say they have found four polar bear carcasas floating in the water off the coast of Alaska in the last 30 days, victims of a melt down of ice shelves there.

Sadly, Greenpeace is carrying a video cartoon image on their US website of two polar bears that cling desperately to a piece of melting ice before disappearing beneath the water. If only it were just a cartoon, but it's not, it's reality and there is little anyone can do to curb the arctic shelf from melting. According to Greenpeace, Polar bears will be extinct with 45 years if global warming isn't reversed.

Research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government's Minerals Management Service, shows that the ice shelf is retreating further north from Alaksa, 200 miles at this point from where it used to be two decades ago and for polar bears who live on the ice year round, that means trouble.

"Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues, " said Monnett.

As the ice pack retreats north in the summer between June and October, the bears must travel between ice floes to continue hunting in areas such as the shallow water of the continental shelf off the Alaskan coast - one of the most food-rich areas in the Arctic. However, last summer the ice cap receded about 200 miles further north than the average of two decades ago, forcing the bears to undertake far longer voyages between floes.

Short swims up to 15 miles are no problem for Polar bears and some bears have been observed swimming up to 100 miles. But that is the extent of their ability, and if they are trying to make such a long swim and they encounter rough seas they could get into trouble and drown. That is exactly the circumstance scientists believe the four Polar bears encountered.