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Polar Bears May Become Dependent on Humans for Survival February 15, 2013
Polar bear and cub
Some bears may have to be housed in shelters or zoos once the summer sea ice completely disappears.
Polar bears may need to be fed in the wild, housed or relocated by humans within the next few decades to help them survive a warming climate, according to a new report.

Climate change has resulted in accelerated loss of Arctic sea ice, which polar bears rely on to hunt for food.

If the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer within the next few decades as predicted, many bears will starve without human intervention.

Some members of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Russia may even have to be placed in temporary holding compounds until enough ice forms for them to go back out into the wild to hunt.

Currently, none of those countries has plans to help the animals survive the loss of their frozen habitat.

But 12 research scientists from Arctic countries have crafted a crisis management plan designed to save as many of the world’s approximately 20,000 remaining polar bears as possible.

Part of the survival plan would be to have zoos take in as many bears as they can hold.

If none of these options can be taken, they say the only humane choice would be to euthanize bears that would otherwise suffer an agonizing death by starvation.

The crisis management plan for polar bears is outlined in the current issue of the journal Conservation Letters.

Photo: Mike Lockhart - USGS