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You are not mistaken if you think you see a little sadness in the eyes of the polar bear above. We are all too familiar with the image of the proud polar bear striding across the arctic ice, but this bear is tired, hungry and looking out of place slumped on grassland.

Where is the bear? Hot and exhausted in a zoo perhaps, resting from a circus act? No, this animal is in its natural habitat- on the shores of the Hudson Bay. The trouble is that the bear's habitat is changing, and the bear is suffering as a result.

The first bear to hunt on the ice was probably a grizzly – and it took several hundreds of thousands of years to become adapted to conditions of the Arctic coastline.  White hair for camouflage, concealing black skin to absorb heat. Polar bears have white fur for camouflage while stalking prey – seals mainly. To provide insulation and a store of food, the polar bear has lots of fat.  

This is summer time.  Tough times for the bears that live on and off the shores of Hudson Bay.  These are the lean months. On the Hudson Bay the ice completely melts every summer.  So between July and November, the bears eat nothing.  This is where a large fat reserve is essential.  

The problem is that the ice breaks up on average two weeks earlier than it did ten years ago.  The year 2002 was much, much worse than previous years.  The bears have had to last for almost a whole month longer. 

The extra weeks without food have an impact on all the bears but it is females with cubs that are affected most.  A mother bear needs to provide milk for her cubs for one or two years.  For some this is just not possible.  Some baby cubs simply starve to death.  

Scientists working in the Hudson Bay area have found that for every week the ice breaks up earlier, the bears come ashore 10 kg lighter.  This means females are not able to produce as much milk.  It is the smaller, weaker cubs that die first.

 

                    Adaptation of an article by CBC.  www.tv.cbc.ca

  

‘The plight of the Hudson Bay polar bears is a warning that climate change is not something that will happen far off in the future, it’s happening now!’

  

                  -         Stephanie Tannine

                               Climate campaigner with Greenpeace.