Happy Earth Day, people! Let’s stop doing horrible stuff to polar bears, shall we? A researcher at the University of Alberta has found that polar bears are making longer and longer swims across open ocean because of fractured, melting sea ice. Researcher Andrew Derocher has been tracking polar bears along Canada and Alaska’s northern coasts for the last six years.
In studying polar bears in Canada and Alaska, Derocher found that melting ice often leads to bears getting caught in places they can’t survive, so they’re forced to go on extremely long-distance swims. Polar bears are not evolutionarily equipped to do these kinds of swims and the results are completely devastating. One particularly heartbreaking journey occurred outside of Derocher’s study in 2009. A mother bear swam 250 miles for nine days without rest off the coast of Alaska and ended up losing 22 percent of her body weight. Her 1-year-old cub died along the way.