December 8th, 2009
05:15 PM ET

Planet in Peril Video: Tracking Polar Bears in the Arctic

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

In Alaska and across the Arctic, the average amount of sea ice has been decreasing during the past few decades. This could be huge trouble for polar bears, which live and hunt primarily on sea ice.

About 4,700 polar bears live in Alaska, U.S. officials say. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended the polar bear be placed on the Threatened Species list.

Alaskan residents also are dealing with a changing environment. Temperatures in the state, which is twice the size of Texas, have warmed more than 3 degrees in the past 50 years and residents are seeing the expensive consequences of melting permafrost, which causes soil erosion and some flooding. Scientists say what happens in the state, one-third of which lies within the Artic Circle, is a harbinger of what might occur in the contiguous U.S.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Global warming is already having an impact on the polar bear; especially those in Churchill Canada. Canadian scientists have reported that 5he permanent Arctic sea ice that is home to the world's polar bears and usually survives the summer has all but disappeared. Experts around the world believed previously that the ice was recovering because satellite images showed it expanding, but the thick, multiyear frozen sheets have been replaced by thin ice that cannot support the weight of a polar bear. As you go further north there are fewer and fewer polar bears because of the significant decline in suitable habitat for them. Some scientists report that they have seen evidence that some of the starving polar bears have turned cannibalistic and are eating their cubs to survive.

    Wildlife at all levels of the food chain are being impacted by global warming; the polar bear is the "poster child" for this because of its appeal to people and the rapid loss of habitat. Their habitat was suppose to last years longer but as the ice melts faster than anticipated the impact to them has moved from after 2020 to today. Let us hope that the countries meeting at Copenhagen can come up with an action plan that everyone can agree to and hopefully help stem the speed of loss.

    December 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  2. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    Officials and scientists can put the emails on global warming aside and let the facts speak for themselves. Time and energy is better spent on saving the wildlife and environment. The polar bear is a perfect poster mammal for the cause. It's a noble animal, and stirs compassion. Will AC360 air the video of Dr. Gupta in Antarctica? This might be a good time to show it.

    December 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Ratna, New York, NY

    aaaauuw!!!! How cute!!!

    Thank you Jeff Corwin!

    December 8, 2009 at 4:54 pm |