As with most animals whose natural habitats are being threatened, polar bears are beginning to travel to the far Northern side of Canada where a lot more plentiful ice is more prevalent.
A US Geological Survey conducted a study in which the team evaluated the local bear population’s genetic makeup. The scientists noticed that starting somewhere in the 1990s, the last three generations of polar bears have been headed in a northern direction where ice is present all year-round. Similarly, Lily Peacock, a USGS wildlife biologist, stated that there have been serious directional movements of bears towards the Canadian Archipelago. Peacock thinks that in the long term, the genetic analysis used by them provides better data.
The genetic analysis can help them estimate both directions and levels of genetic flow, pattern of population as whether it has expanded or contracted. Such genetic flows take place over the course of generations, and would remain undetectable through measures like tracking methods.
At first glance this might seem like simply a natural reaction to climate change, but researchers are concerned that the move further in the northern direction can turn out to be a harmful decision for the species as the bears could become isolated up there. Isolated populations face problems regarding their genetics and how they interact with the weather which makes the species more vulnerable to extinction in the long run.
Kristin Laidre at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center said that there are many other Arctic species as well that have also shifted due to loss of sea ice and, while many skeptics still feel this is a natural progression of the Earth, most climate change scientists still agree that human contributions to global warming is the being threat to the species. Could this be the end of an era for our furry white friends up North?