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.