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Whew! Chukchi Sea polar bears are in good shape

Polar Bears
An adult female polar bear and a cub stroll on Wrangel Island in the fall of 2017. Hundreds of Chukchi Sea polar bears spend the summer months on the island. (University of Washington Photo / Eric Regehr)

The first census of polar bears living around the Chukchi Sea, straddling Alaska and eastern Siberia, suggests that the population has been stable and healthy over the past decade.

That comes as a welcome contrast to the problems facing polar bears in other Arctic regions as their sea-ice habitat shrinks. The loss of  sea ice is an issue for the Chukchi Sea as well, but the nearly 3,000 bears in that region don’t seem to be feeling the strain as much.

“Despite having about one month less time on preferred sea-ice habitats to hunt compared with 25 years ago, we found that the Chukchi Sea subpopulation was doing well from 2008 to 2016,” Eric Regehr, a biologist at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, said today in a news release.

Regehr is the principal author of a study about the census published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports. The census, conducted by researchers from UW and federal agencies, chronicles a decade’s worth of observations — and delves into why the Chukchi Sea bears seem to be faring better than their cousins elsewhere.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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