187,000 Square Miles Designated Polar Bear Critical Habitat

Polar bear mother and cubs

In a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace against the U.S. Department of the Interior, more than 187,000 square miles (120 million acres) were designated as “critical habitat” for the polar bear.  This designation marks the areas crucial to polar bears’ survival.  Federal agencies are prohibited to adversely modify the lands and coastal waters in these areas.  This may deter future oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, which are part of the critical habitat.

The lawsuit challenges the Department of the Interior’s 2008 decision to classify polar bears as a “threatened” species rather than the more protective “endangered” status and further disputes their special ruling that greenhouse gases could not be regulated as a result of the “threatened” status.

Greenhouse gases make up the primary threat to polar bears.  An increase of carbon emissions leads to rising temperatures, which are causing the Arctic ice masses to melt away at a rapid rate. A reduction of large masses of ice limits polar bears’ access to seals, their main food source. Not only does this adversely affect the health of adult polar bears, it also hinders the successful reproduction and nourishment of new bear cubs. Rising temperatures also result in unstable maternity dens, as snowdrifts melt and collapse.  If greenhouse gases are not curbed, the polar bear could become extinct in 40 years or less.

For more information about the court decision, see the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release.

To learn more about polar bears and what you can do to help them, see Animal Fact Guide’s article: Polar Bear.

Polar Bear Cubs Born

ourson1Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien in Canada has welcomed two polar bear cubs. The cubs were born on November 30 of this year to Aisaqvaq, a resident of the zoo.

Aisaqvaq has been acting very maternal, caring for her newborns in a birthing den created by the zoo. This comes as a relief to zoo workers because Aisaqvaq ate her previous cub, born last December.

To read more and watch videos of Aisaqvaq and her cubs visit the Zoo Sauvage website.

To learn more about polar bears, see Animal Fact Guide’s article: Polar Bear.

500-pound Polar Bear Undergoes Root Canal

At the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Anoki, a 12-year-old polar bear had a dental infection that had the potential to spread to her organs. So veterinary dental surgeon Dr. Ira R. Luskin donated his time to perform a root canal on the 500-pound patient.

For more info: Baltimore Sun

The Last Polar Bear

Polar bear up close

Steven Kazlowski is a wildlife photographer who has spent 9 years capturing images of polar bears in their native Arctic environment. His book, The Last Polar Bear: Facing the Truth of a Warming World, features 200 full-color photographs of polar bears and their diminishing habitat as well a collection of essays by biologists and Alaska-based writers.

For more information on the book, visit:
CBC News: Will we see The Last Polar Bear in our lifetime?
Left Eye Productions

Buy it from Amazon.com >

For more information about polar bears, visit Animal Fact Guide’s polar bear article.