Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Just when you thought the imaginary polar bear crisis couldn’t get any sillier;
Scientists hatch bold plan to save polar bears
It will take more than bear chow to keep the animals alive in the wild.
by David Cox / Feb.27.2018 / 6:37 PM ET
For the past two decades, scientists have been monitoring the effects of a warming Arctic on the world’s polar bears — and the bears’ future has looked increasingly bleak.
The latest estimates suggest that Arctic sea ice is disappearing by 14 percent a decade, drastically limiting the bears’ ability to hunt the seals on which they feed. And research on bears living on the Arctic islands of Svalbard shows that the animals are now reproducing at a rate one-fifth of that seen just 20 years ago.
Given these dismal statistics, scientists now predict that the global population of polar bears could fall from 20,000 to 30,000 today to fewer than 5,000 by 2100 — and beyond that no one knows. Even if a small population of bears manage to hang on, they’re not out of the woods.
For 5,000 bears to survive in this region (the minimum thought to be required to prevent inbreeding), scientists believe the animals may need help from humans. Derocher envisions helicopters zipping around the region, dropping bear chow. Without such deliveries, he says, hungry bears might wander south into human settlements — and risk being shot.
Airdrops of bear chow wouldn’t come cheap. Derocher estimates that delivering enough chow to sustain those 5,000 bears could cost the Canadian government $2 million a month. Given the hefty price tag, he proposes that the chow be used only during times when the bears are finding it especially difficult to catch and kill seals.
The NBC news article also suggests using artificial insemination on grizzly bear surrogates to maintain polar bear numbers. Lets just say I’m not going to be head of the queue to apply for that job.