Polar Bear Swims 9 Days, Her Cub Doesn’t Make It

 

A female polar bear swam 426 miles (687 kilometers) straight, the length from Boston to Washington DC and the longest swim for a polar bear ever recorded. Sadly, the reason for her 9-day swim in the icy waters of the Beaufort Sea is global warming, which has led to the sea ice shrinking. The bear had to swim such a huge distance in order to find land.

Says National Geographic:

Until 1995, summer sea ice usually remained over along the continental shelf of the Beaufort Sea, a critical habitat for polar bears due to its rich seal population. Now the sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas is retreating from the coast by hundreds of kilometers, [George] Durner [a U.S. Geological Survey research zoologist in Anchorage, Alaska], said.

In 2010, Arctic sea ice extent was the third lowest on record, part of a long-term trend of ice loss that will continue for decades to come, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

The polar bear’s epic swim came at a harsh price, the loss of her cub, who died at some point after the swim started. The bear also lost 22 percent of her body weight swimming in near-freezing waters.

The bear was one of 68 female bears collared between 2004 and 2009, with the intent of studying their movements. Biologists noted gaps in the data on the bears and linked these to when they were at sea; they correlated the female polar bears’ long-distance swimming (defined as swims longer than 30 miles (50 kilometers) ) to the survival of their cubs. Five out of eleven mothers who had cubs prior to the long swims no longer had them when they were again on land, scientists found.

As Steve Amstrup, a former scientist at the USGS and now chief scientist at Polar Bears International and a co-author of a study on the bears, said in MSNBC:

“Young bears don’t have very much fat and therefore they aren’t very well insulated and cannot cope with being in cold water for very long.”

Because they are leaner than their parents, Amstrup said, “they probably aren’t as buoyant (as adult polar bears) so in rough water they’ll have more difficulty keeping their heads above water.

According to MSNBC, in June, the arctic sea ice extent — the area covered by sea ice — was the second lowest since 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Polar bears are listed as a threatened species in the US; in Canada, they are listed as a species at risk. But if female polar bears are forced to make such long-distance swims, it doesn’t bode well for their cubs’ survival; for the polar bears’ survival.

Photo by USFWS Headquarters

208 comments

Despina V.
Despina Vekris4 years ago

So sad

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

Too sad.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Ummm, Atudorquene, if you actually read the article, the tracking devices did not work while the bears were swimming, period, so impossible to intervene. Bear cubs all don't make it in the first place. The fact that 75% die within their first year is not new. It's also fact that the researchers don't know WHEN the cub didn't make it. How could they save it? These were collars that transmitted a radio signal, not cameras. Could be that the cub was killed by another bear, who knows? Nobody does. Could have been drowned, could be a killer whale, could have been many things.

BROOKE W.
BROOKE W.4 years ago

HOW IS LETTING BABY POLAR BEARS DROWN THAT U R TRACKING & KNOWING THEY R IN DANGER CONTRIBUTING 2 SCIENCE*MAKE ME SICK*WHAT R U GUY*S THINKING*OH WAIT YUR NOT THINKING THAT*S YUR PROBLEM*A BABY POLAR BEAR CAN*T SWIM VERY LONG OR KEEP HIS HEAD ABOVE WATER*WHAT LITTLE BABY FAT THEY HAVE ISN*T ENOUGH 2 SHELTER THEIR BODIES FROM ZERO TEMPS*I HATE MAN MORE EVERYDAY*U COULD*VE HELPED BUT CHOSE NOT 2*SO WHAT HAVE U CONTRIBUTED 2 THE WORLD*ABSOLUTELY NOTHING*SHOULD B PROUD OF YUR SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS*FILTHY DUMB SCUMBAG*BROOKE W*HELSINKI*FINLAND

Atudorquene E.
Atudorquene E.4 years ago

Okay sorry, if you are tracking the bear and see that this is happening go out there and SAVE the freaking creatures! I am so tired of 'scientists' just sitting back and observing. We are past the observation stage, we know this is a human made tragedy and need to step in and do what we can to help these animals. FEH! Poor cub, poor mom, and shame on the 'observers' of these tragedies. If you saw a woman and her child swimming to survive, you would not stand by and watch one drown, you would try and help. Why do you not try and help the bears? The BS logic escapes me.

James H.
James Hager4 years ago

sad

Joy Jin
Joy Jin4 years ago

poor bear. :(

Angela Fawcett
Angela Fawcett4 years ago

This planet is coming to an end. its all our fault yet we are so ignorant and greedy that we carry on regardless of everything in it which was fine untill WE INTERFERED!

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Ann, I'm not Henri, but I think you may be misunderstanding what he was saying. Seems if we do what was suggested, it might save one or two bears, but would affect other species as well, so sometimes we have to let "Mother Nature" take her course. When humans interfere, it messes everything up sometimes. I think if there was a logical way of saving bears that we KNOW are in peril, without affecting other species, that would be great.

An example of interfering was when a naturalist photograher was following one male Polar Bear's long swim to find food, he observed the bear finally finding an iceberg and got onto it, but found it occupied by dozens of adult walruses. The poor bear was so hungry, he went after a young walrus and was severely injured. The photographer watched and filmed helplessly. He said he was horribly troubled, wanting to go in there and help, but he couldn't. If he had tried, he'd have been killed in the process. The only thing he COULD have done was shoot the walrus! Now, would that have been acceptable? I don't think so.

Ann P.
A P.4 years ago

You're right Henri, we should never do anything to help anyone, or anything, other than ourselves. Makes it so much easier, no thinking, or humanity required.