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Polar bears forced to swim without rest thanks to melting ice

Disappearing ice has caused polar bears to swim weeks at a time without rest, and for those who don’t swim it spells trouble for humans

Is ice melting really a good thing? As we watch with delight how winter melts into spring we can’t forget how the disappearing ice farther north means disaster for polar bears. It also means more time in the water trying to stay afloat.

According to Bangor Daily News, polar bears monitored closely by scientists and environmentalists are seen swimming longer distances to find slabs of ice big enough to fit on. These long distances can take weeks and are often completed without food or rest, something biologist Andrew Derocher notes the large mammals are not used to.

“Ice is changing so quickly that we’re finding the bears are getting caught in places where they’re finally coming to the realization, ‘I just can’t stay here,’ ” said Derocher. “These kinds of long-distance swims are not what they evolved to undergo.”

While polar bears are capable of swimming, long distances observed by  scientists are not what they are built for. This rings even more true for the cubs.

“With cubs, if they have to undergo a long distance swim it’s basically a death sentence,” said Derocher.

Polar bears, young and old, aren’t the only ones in danger from the ever-dwindling ice. USA Today reported that in Alaska polar bears would forgo swimming to roam the land, putting the animals dangerously close to humans.

“The weather has changed a lot, and it has made the animals change their behavior,” said Clyde Oxereok of Wales, Alaska, where they have had to set up polar bear patrols to keep school children safe.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently setting up operations to monitor the bears, those in Alaska and around the globe, more carefully.

 

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