In the southeast of Greenland, in the Kingdom of Denmark, a population of polar bears has proven to adapt and survive longer without sea ice – which they use to hunt for seals – than its fury cousins, giving hope to the survival of the iconic Nordic species.
“[The findings] show us how some polar bears might persist under climate change,” explains Kristin Laidre, a polar research scientist at the University of Washington. The Greenland polar bear population learned to adapt to survive in their surroundings.
While other bear species can survive between 100 and 180 days without sea ice and therefore without food – until the ice forms again – the Greenland bears can survive up to 250 days since they can continue hunting with the help of chunks of ice breaking into the Arctic Ocean. For 36 years, scientists studied polar bears thanks to GPS collar tracking data, tissue samples, and helicopter observations. According to their estimations, there are around 300 individuals in the group. Not yet internationally recognized as a subpopulation of polar bears, the Greenland bear population will be the object of such study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The global population of polar bears is roughly 26,000 individuals and their status is either “vulnerable”, “special concern,” or “threatened.”