Scientists Attach Cameras to Polar Bears and Discover They’re Starving

Scientists attached cameras to polar bears and the shocking footage revealed that the animals are starving due to the rapidly shrinking sea ice.

A team of scientists from Washington State University and the U.S Geological Survey strapped cameras to the necks of 20 polar bears in western Hudson Bay, northern Canada.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers’ wanted to learn about the polar bears’ behavior away from the water.

Due to global warming, increasing amounts of sea ice are melting and bears are forced to spend more time on land.

In western Hudson Bay, the ice-free period is three weeks longer now than it was in the 1970s, and polar bears currently spend about 130 days on land during the year.

Scientists estimate that, going forward, there will be five to 10 more days without sea ice each decade.

The scientists recorded 115 hours of footage over three recent years, providing a rare insight into the land-bound lives of these animals.

The Polar Bears Were on Track to Starve

The videos revealed the bears were forced to spend more time on land where they are less adapted to hunt and forage for food. The animals tried different strategies to maintain energy reserves, including resting, scavenging, and foraging.

Footage shows a huge polar bear gnawing on antlers and bird carcasses — while others graze on berries and grass.

Yet all but one of the bears followed in the study lost weight rapidly, and two individuals were on track to starve before the sea ice returned. Scientists estimate that the bears lost an average of 2.2 pounds per day.

Putting collar cameras on polar bears is a new technique, and going through the video was “amazing,” Dr. Anthony Pagano tells The New York Times.

“To watch what a polar bear is actually doing in the wild was really gratifying,” Pagano adds.

However, the polar bear population in the Hudson Bay region has already fallen by 30% since 1987.

In a statement, Pagano says that the footage provided more evidence that global warming would make the situation even worse for these bears.

“Terrestrial foods are not adequate to prolong the period that polar bears can survive on land,” Pagano explains.