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polar bear on ice

Polar Bear Q&A of the Day: What’s so special about sea ice?

Polar Bear experts are on hand during Polar Bear Cam season to weigh in on your frequently asked questions!

Today’s Question: What’s so special about sea ice?

Bears spotted on the polar bear cam have gathered on the shores of Hudson Bay to wait for the bay to freeze so they can hunt ringed seals. The polar bear’s life cycle is closely tied to sea ice. Polar bears rely on the ice to hunt seals, breed, and in some cases to den. Sea ice is both a platform from which polar bears hunt seals, and the basis of the food chain the polar bear tops. Ice algae forms beneath and within sea ice and is eaten by copepods. Fish eat copepods and seals eat fish. Blubber-rich seals are the mainstay of the polar bear’s diet.

“Without sea ice to hunt seals from, polar bears can’t survive, and in recent years, summer sea ice losses in the Arctic, at important times for feeding, have been accelerating,” said Dr. Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta and polar bear biologist.

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