Are Polar Bears in Danger?
Are the polar bears headed for extinction? Should they be added to the endangered species list?
There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the listing of Polar Bears on the Endangered Species list. What a terrific opportunity for older children to learn about the process and explore the world polar bears live in, and how their rapidly changing environment will affect them.
A report has been created entitled, "Demographic and Ecological Perspectives on the Status of Polar Bears," by Dr. Mitchell Taylor and Dr. Martha Dowsley. I highly recommend you download the pdf and print it out for your students. They will find it very informative.
This report is also available in html here.
For a brief overview of the report read the Polar Bear Update on Right Side News.
Although two polar bear subpopulations (Western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea) no longer appear to be viable due to reduction in sea ice habitat, polar bears as a species do not appear to be threatened by extinction in the foreseeable future from either a demographic or an ecological perspective.
Ecological perspectives that suggest the reductions to survival and recruitment rates for two populations (Western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea) have occurred because of a long-term decline in sea ice due to climate warming. These populations occur where summer ice coverage is seasonal (WH) or divergent (SB).
The perspective that the impacts of sea ice reductions experienced in WH and SB subpopulations can be generalized to the remainder of the polar bear subpopulations depends entirely on the IPCC GCMs that predict continued reductions to sea ice due to CO2 driven climate change. Current and historical polar bear subpopulation performance demonstrates that viable polar bear subpopulations have persisted and generally increased throughout the current period of climate warming.
Additional Polar Bear Resources
- New Polar Bear Finding -- March 28, 2008
Newly-released USGS information from 9 recent studies presents relationships of polar bears to present and future sea ice environments. [U.S. Geological Survey]
- Most Polar Bears Gone By 2050, Studies Say -- September 10, 2007
Two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear by 2050 as global warming continues to melt the Arctic's sea ice, according to a series of U.S. government studies released last Friday. [National Geographic]
- Climate change threatens polar bears -- May 15, 2002
About 60 per cent of the world's polar bears live in Canada, the rest in Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. [New Scientist]
- The Polar Bears' Last Stand -- December 23, 2005
Global warming is causing famine-like conditions for polar bears in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The feeding season is shorter and the ice is thinner -- bears are slowly starving, weak bears are drowning and they are leaving behind orphans. Scientists in Canada are trying to save the species by finding foster families for orphaned cubs. [Spiegel]
- Climate Change May Put Polar Bear on Threatened List -- December 27, 2006
The federal government says climate change threatens the polar bear with extinction, and the efforts under way to arrest global warming will not be adequate to save the mighty Arctic predator. [NPR]
- Climate change sceptics criticise polar bear science -- July 1, 2007
As the poster child for the climate change generation polar bears have come to symbolise the need to tackle climate change. But their popularity has attracted the attention of global warming sceptics funded by the oil industry, who have started to attack polar bear science. [New Scientist]
- Polar Bears and Conservation -- date unknown
No adequate census exists on which to base a worldwide population estimate, but biologists use a working figure of 20,000 to 25,000 bears with about sixty percent of those living in Canada. [Polar Bears International]
- Implications of Climate: Change in the Management of Vulnerable Species
The Case Study of Polar Bears. [USGS Alaska Science Center]
What do you think?
Should polar bears be placed on the endangered species list?
Ask your student to write a short report giving their reasons behind their decision. I will post the responses here. Please be sure to include a first name or initials of the student, their age and/or grade, along with the state where you live.
Related Polar Bear Lessons & Unit Studies
- Alaska's Polar Bears Recovering?
- Polar Bears, Ecology and Politics: A Unit Study
- Are Polar Bears in Danger?
- Polar Bear
- Polar Bears for Primary Students
- E-Book: Polar Bears Unit Study
- A Unit Study on Bears for Grades K-6th
- Iditarod Unit Study Helps
Polar Bear Facts & Fun
- Polar Bear - Find video, Polar Bear Cam, Facts and more. - National Geographic [all ages]
- Polar Bears - Discover life in the arctic - Arctic Studies Center [Jr. High and up]
- Polar Bears - What keeps Polar Bears warm? - A to Z Teacher Stuff [Grades 1 & 2]
- Bear Theme - Preschool Activities and Crafts - First School [Preschool]
- The Polar Bear - Learn about Polar Bears - Kid Zone [Primary Grades]