Column: Exploring endangered species-polar bears are on the brink of extinction

Editor’s column: Exploring endangered species

Mia Delmonico is the REV Editor-In-Chief

By MIA DELMONICO

When most people think of polar bears an image of a large pearl white creature usually appears. While some may find them adorable, others can easily find them frightening, as they share many of the same characteristics as a common black bear. However, what does not usually cross people’s minds is the fact that they are among the most vulnerable species in the entire world. The constantly changing environment that they call home provides for a difficult foreseeable future. 

Polar bears inhabit the Arctic Circle which includes countries such as Canada and Russia. Due to the harsh conditions that they encounter each and every day, they have developed certain adaptations that allow them to live more comfortably. For example, polar bear fur consists of multiple layers that allow for insulation and protection from their freezing environment. According to Polar Bears International, a non-profit polar bear conservation organization, this prevents extreme heat loss and, in some cases, can cause some adult bears to overheat after a hard run. In addition, polar bear paws function to not only “grip the ice to prevent them from slipping” but also to assist them while swimming, acting almost as “paddles” and “rudders” as stated in Polar Bears International. 

Though polar bears are similar to other bears in appearance, they do differ in certain ways apart from their habitats. One of the major differences is that polar bears are almost one hundred percent carnivorous. This essentially means that unlike common bears that eat meat in addition to plants and insects, polar bears’ diets consist of nearly all meat. Also, according to the National Wildlife Federation, polar bears differ from other bears in regard to their denning habits or hibernation methods. Common bears, such as brown bears, always den in the winter because all of their primary food sources have succumbed to snow coverage; this forces them to hibernate. In contrast, polar bears have access to their food source of seals almost all year round, allowing them to refrain from hibernation. However, there is an exception to this. The National Wildlife Federation details that pregnant female polar bears have to den in order to birth their cubs in a warmer environment.

Despite polar bears’ many adaptations to survive in the Arctic Circle, they are constantly facing new struggles as the planet changes. Climate change has led to “sea ice loss” which is the “single biggest threat to their survival,” according to Polar Bears International. If climate change continues to accelerate at its current pace, polar bear populations will continue to dwindle. While other threats factor into their survival, such as pollution, commercial activities and disease, changing temperatures as a result of climate change puts them at the most risk. 

However, there are ways to help polar bears. One way to help the effort to support polar bears and their habitats is to symbolically adopt one. This can be done through organizations like Polar Bears International. In addition, people can always donate to this and similar organizations as well. Also, people can educate themselves on polar bears and climate change. This may inspire them to lead a more environmentally conscious life. 

No matter how we choose to take action, it is important to know that every intention makes a difference.

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