Largest Land Carnivore
Polar Bears are the largest land-dwelling carnivore. A male polar bear can weigh as much as 800 – 1500 pounds and have up to four inches of thick blubber that insulates them from the cold. Their diet consists mostly of seals which live under the sea ice, periodically emerging for air through holes in the ice. The polar bears hunt by waiting near seal breathing holes to surprise the seal and pull it out of the water. These breathing holes are scattered all over the Arctic Ocean, and therefore, the polar bear must spend much of its time wandering around in search of food on the ice. Since these bears spend so much time out on the ocean, they are also considered marine mammals.
Disappearing Sea Ice
Loss of habitat and sea ice is the biggest problem that polar bears face. Without sufficient sea ice cover, they are unable to hunt for food. This forces the bears to face longer periods of time in between feeding and to live off body fat reserves. With decreasing sea ice due to global climate change, polar bears must swim great distances in open-ocean to find sea ice, which is an energetically costly task.
The difference of 1 degree
On a global scale, the average temperature has risen 1.5 degrees since 1880. That might not seem like a lot, but think of how just one degree can make the difference between water existing in a frozen state or in liquid state. Where you live depends on how you observe climate change and people living on one continent observe climate change affected weather differently than people living on an other.
The loss of sea ice
Since the mid 1970’s, scientists have measured a significant trend of decreasing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. It is estimated that arctic ice thickness has decreased by 40% since the mid 60’s (Natural Resources Defense Council). This trend also coincides with receding and disappearing glaciers in the same regions. As large pieces of sea ice break off from the ice sheet, habitat is being reduced for not just polar bears, but other sea ice dependent animals such as seals, walruses and birds. As ice melts, it releases fresh water in to the ocean which can change the way the oceanic currents work by changing the salinity of the water in specific regions. In addition, as more water gets dumped into the ocean, the average ocean level will rise causing flooding and habitat loss in areas very far away from the ice caps like Florida and Indonesia
Wild Toledo Prairies and Polar Bears
Wild Toledo Prairies
The Toledo Zoo is establishing natural prairie areas around the urban Toledo area including the Anthony Wayne Trail median, vacant lots and parks. These prairie areas are important to Polar Bears because native wild flowers and grasses store large amounts of carbon in their extremely long roots that extend downwards into the ground. Wild flowers and grasses, like all plants, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it into their roots. This is called carbon sequestering and acts to “filter” the air. By planting large expanses of natural prairie areas, we can mitigate the effects we have on the environment and “reduce” the effects of climate change, saving more ice for the bears long term.
To make a difference, consider planting native wildflowers and grasses in your yard and garden. The biologists of Wild Toledo have created special blends of seeds that are available for purchase that can help the polar bears, which are as close as 600 miles away from the city of Toledo.