For Immediate Release
New Report Details Plight of Polar Bears
Defenders of Wildlife recommends extraordinary measures for protecting bears and communities
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Banking polar bear DNA, supplemental feedings and bear-resistant food
storage are among measures that could be key to preserving polar bears
for future generations, according to a new report by Defenders of
Wildlife. With climate change threatening to push them to the brink of
extinction, urgent action is needed to give the polar bears a shot at
The following is a statement from Karla Dutton, Alaska director for Defenders of Wildlife:
"Warming temperatures are devastating key polar bear habitat. The
alarming loss of Arctic sea-ice has negative implications for every
aspect of the bears' lives, from hunting seals to raising cubs. Without
help, climate change could be the final straw for the animals in Alaska.
As the marine bears turn increasingly to land, our response must be
quicker and more ambitious than ever.
"In addition to working to reduce greenhouse gas pollution
responsible for climate change, Defenders is exploring measures to keep
both polar bears and Alaskans safe as the loss of sea-ice forces the
marine mammals farther inland. This includes developing
polar-bear-resistant food-lockers for Alaska Native communities, and
considering supplemental and diversionary feedings of bears to prevent
conflict with humans as bears search for food on land. With bold action,
we can prevent polar bears from disappearing from U.S. shores."
The report, Sea Bear Under Siege: Polar Bears and Climate Change in Alaska,
offers an extensive list of actions that should be undertaken to assist
these Arctic marine animals. Several of these recommendations are
particularly relevant now, as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- the
most important onshore denning site for polar bears -- celebrates its
50th anniversary and prepares for the future.
Below are some of the actions suggested in Defenders' new report:
- Initiate or expand prevention and response programs in Arctic
coastal communities to keep people and polar bears safe as bears are
forced to spend longer periods on land. Prevention programs include
community education, bear-resistant food storage and waste disposal
procedures and oversight of ecotourism ventures that promote polar bear
watching. Response programs include polar bear patrols and rapid-
response measures for dealing with bears that come too close and
temporary holding facilities and plans for dealing with problem bears.
And to help evaluate and prioritize mitigation efforts, establish an
international database on interactions between polar bears and people.
- Directly intervene to help polar bears in dire circumstances through
efforts such as supplemental feeding of starving bears with the remains
of bowhead whales and other subsistence-hunted animals; rescuing
malnourished bears, moving them to rehabilitation facilities and
eventually relocating them; working with zoos to develop plans for
accepting polar bears unable to make it in the wild and to establish
polar bear gene banks and captive-breeding programs to preserve the
polar bear's diverse gene pool should climate change claim entire
- Suspend all new Arctic oil and gas development until appropriate
measures to protect polar bear populations and their sea-ice habitat are
in place. In addition, institute a permanent moratorium on energy
exploration and development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the most important onshore denning
habitat for Alaskan polar bears.
Read Defenders' new report, Sea Bear Under Siege: Polar Bears and Climate Change in Alaska
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Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.