Polar bears are facing extinction sooner than scientists had previously anticipated because as the ice caps continue to melt, it's getting harder and harder for them to find food.
Researchers from the United States Geological Survey and the University of California Santa Cruz followed nine polar bears over two years. They fitted the bears with GPS collars attached with cameras to monitor the bears movements and feeding behavior. The published their findings on Thursday in the Science journal.
"We found that polar bears actually have much higher energy demands than predicted. They need to be catching a lot of seals," said lead author Anthony Pagano, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Santa Cruz and wildlife biologist with USGS.
Analysis of the bears’ metabolism revealed an adult polar bear requires at least one adult seal or three juveniles every 10 days to sustain itself. According to the study, five of the nine bears they studied lost body mass because they were unable to catch enough food to meet their needs.
"This was at the start of the period from April through July when polar bears catch most of their prey and put on most of the body fat they need to sustain them throughout the year," Pagano said.
As sea ice continues to melt at an increasingly fast rate, polar bears are starving to death at higher rates.
“My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear,” he wrote in the post. “It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like."
In an interview last Sunday, Donald Trump said that “the ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record levels.”
According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center arctic sea ice in December was at its second-lowest level since 1979. Last year was the eighth lowest minimum extent in the 38-year satellite record.
The lack of ice has forced the bears to travel greater distances in search of food which causes them to use more energy than ever before. Which means they need even more food to survive.
Since the start of the new millennium, the polar bear population has declined by 40 percent.
Polar bears have been listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the protection program repeatedly emphasizes the importance of climate change.