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USGS at The Wildlife Society: From sea-ice change to contaminants to predators and prey

n size for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in western Hudson Bay, Canada, from data collected 1984-2004, and handling data for polar bears that entered the community of Churchill, Manitoba, adjacent to the study area. The size of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population significantly declined from about 1194 in 1987 to 935 in 2004. Survival of prime-adult polar bears (age 5-19 years) was stable over the course of the study for both females and males. However, survival of juvenile, subadult, and old adult polar bears was associated with the timing of sea ice breakup, which was variable between years and occurred about two weeks earlier in 2004 than at the beginning of the study in 1984. The researchers propose that this correlation provides evidence for a causal association between earlier sea ice breakup (due to climatic warming) and decreased polar bear survival. It may also explain why Churchill, like other communities along the western coast of Hudson Bay, has experienced an increase in the number of human-polar bear interactions in recent years. Earlier sea ice breakup may have resulted in a larger number of nutritionally stressed polar bears, which are encroaching upon human habitations in search of supplemental food. Because western Hudson Bay is near the southern limit of the polar bear's range, these findings may foreshadow how more northerly polar bear populations will respond to the continued warming that is projected for many parts of the Arctic. Eric Regehr, Session 13, Sunday, Sept. 24, 1:20-1:40 p.m.

Polar bears, canaries, and declining sea ice wildlife managers or wildlife historians?

Research efforts of the past few decades have given wildlife professionals the tools necessary to address past and present polar bear management challenges. Now, however, climate changes appear to threaten the sea ice itself the floating platform upon which polar bears depend for nearly all of their life history needs. As a universal symbol
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Contact: Catherine Puckett
cpuckett@usgs.gov
352-264-3532
United States Geological Survey
25-Sep-2006


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