How Climate Change is Affecting Ontario's Polar Bears

Mobile

How Climate Change is Affecting Ontario's Polar Bears


Narrator:
This is the only way most of us will ever encounter a polar bear…at the zoo.
We are protected from this massive carnivore by concrete, steel and super thick plexi-glass

But head way up north to Hudson’s Bay – and you’re in their territory – in Ontario’s Polar Bear Provincial Park.

It’s estimated about a thousand polar bears call this part of the province home.
However, this is a species in trouble and, under the Endangered Species Act, its status has been changed from that of special concern to threatened.


Dr. Martyn Obbard
“The populations in Hudson Bay are in trouble.


Narrator:
Renowned Biologist Dr. Martyn Obbard leads a team of scientists with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

For years, he and his colleagues have tracked polar bears. Once one of the big bears is tranquilized, important measurements and samples are taken. The results have been alarming.


Dr. Martyn Obbard
“Well, we’ve got dramatic declines. Bears in all age and sex groups are about 15 – 20 % lighter now, on average, than they were 20 to 25 years ago. So it’s a dramatic difference.”


Narrator:
The problem? Climate change.


Dr. Martyn Obbard
“The sea is melting earlier in Hudson Bay than it did 20 to 30 years ago which means that the seals are less available to the polar bears. The polar bears have fewer weeks in which they can fatten-up on seals


Narrator:
Simply put, without ice, bears have no way of hunting seals – and seal meat comprises almost 100 % of their diet.

It’s a big problem that has the attention of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.


Dr. Martyn Obbard\
These southern populations, especially, of polar bears are giving us an early warning sign – and a wake-up call – that, look, climate change is having dramatic affects on wildlife species. That, you know, we need to do something about this.

The message is that, in fact, as individuals, we can do something about it. And what we have to do is figure out how to reduce our carbon emissions, whatever that takes.


Narrator:
If we can do that, decades from now the zoo won’t be the only place polar bears call home.


* * *