German photographer Kerstin Langenberger posted this photo of a gaunt female polar bear to her Facebook page last month. She’s been photographing polar bears in the Svalbard, Norway, region of the Arctic Ocean, and has noticed that the mother bears, who have to stay on land to give birth, are much thinner than the male polar bears who can spend the entire year out on the pack ice, where there’s more food to hunt.
“Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females — like this one here. A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land.”
Last year, National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen photographed a dead polar bear in the same region. And he says it wasn’t the only one spotted that day.
Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn't find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears. These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety