According to a recent government assessment, polar bears are rapidly disappearing from the western side of Hudson Bay, at the southernmost point of the Canadian Arctic.
Notably, the number of female bears and their pups has dramatically decreased.
Every five years, scientists have flown over the area, which includes Churchill, a popular tourist attraction dubbed the “polar bear capital of the world,” to count the bears and estimate population trends.
Scientists observed 194 bears, during the most recent survey, which was conducted in late August and early September 2021, and based on that count, they calculated that there were 618 bears overall, down from 842 five years earlier.
“Comparison to aerial surveys estimates from 2011 and 2016 suggests that the WH (Western Hudson Bay population) may be decreasing in abundance,” the study said.
It also “revealed significant declines in the abundance of adult female and subadult bears (cubs) between 2011 and 2021.”
“The observed declines are consistent with long-standing predictions regarding the demographic effects of climate change on polar bears,” the researchers said.
The population drop was attributed to hunting as well as potential bear relocation to nearby areas.
As a result of the far north warming up to four times faster than the rest of the world, the sea ice habitat for bears has been disappearing at an alarming rate.
The thickness of the sea ice has decreased, and it now breaks up earlier in the spring and freezes later in the fall.
There were 1,200 polar bears on the western shores of Hudson Bay in the 1980s, according to a paper that appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change two years ago. This tendency, the report suggested, might result in the creatures’ near-extinction.