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Polar Bear In Alaska

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Last Updated: 10 October 2020

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- Polar Bears are enduring symbols of the wild Arctic, mighty beast that has made its home in punishing terrain. But in recent years, POLAR BEAR has come to embody something else: creature caught in a world that is disappearing under its feet. Each fall, bears descend in hordes on the tiny Alaskan village of Kaktovik, located on Barter Island, hugging the States ' northern coast. Polar Bears wandering into town, with its population of just 239 people, prove to be such a problem there that POLAR BEAR patrols now sweep streets looking for animals. One of things attracting bears to this area is what locals call, bone pile, spot on shore where whale carcasses have been leaving for years and years. Marie Rexford, who grew up on this island, says locals are allowed to hunt three whales annually, which they rely on to survive, and they leave carcasses at bone pile. Polar Bears will then come at dusk and feed on what leave. But, they are coming earlier and earlier because, experts say, sea ice they depend on has been disappearing. Polar BEARs ' close proximity to town has also sparked a tourism boom. But, while locals are familiar with roaming bears and know how to handle them, town mayors worry tourists do not. There are some people that just come on here and try to go out to bone pile or walk themselves. They don't really understand they are wild animals and their demeanor can change just like that, said Mayor Nora Jane Burns. If they get mauled or kill, it is in the US, and most people do understand that. There are limited commercial flights to Barter Island and Kaktovik can be reached by smaller planes. Tourists who want to go BEAR watching can be see out on chartered boats at sunset, taking pictures of bears at bone pile. What makes it worth it to me is simply seeing a living symbol, beautiful white BEAR walking along the beach who's basically here only because ice hasn't frozen yet, ice that would have frozen years ago, say tourist name Ed Bennett. Bruce Inglangasak, who captains boat for the ABC News team, said BEAR came close to land to look for food. Every year in fall they will hang out here until it is mid - November, and ice starts forming out in the ocean, Inglangasak say. When that starts happening, seals go on ice and that is where POLAR Bears get their seals on ice. And if ice is not there, they do get enough. The Abc News team travel to bone pile by land, in an SUV with guide, Robert Thompson. He said the team could get out and snap a few shots of the Bears, but said to be prepare to run back to the car very, very quickly.

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Life History

Polar bears are tied to sea ice for nearly all of their LIFE CYCLE functions. The most important of these is foraging, or access to food. Polar bears almost exclusively eat seals, and they are equally as dependent upon the sea for their nutrition as are seals, whales, and other aquatic mammals. Polar bears are not aquatic, however, and their only access to seals is from the surface of sea ice. Over the past 25 years, summer sea ice melt period has lengthen, and summer sea ice cover has declined by over half a million square miles. In winter, there have been dramatic reductions in the amount of old ice, predominantly in the Western Arctic. This loss of stable old ice has catalyzed additional losses of sea ice cover each summer because thinner younger ice is more easily melt during recent warmer summers. Research in this focal area seeks to develop a better understanding of how changes in distribution and characteristics of sea ice habitat are likely to affect POLAR BEAR fitness, distribution, and interactions with people. If we know how POLAR bears respond to changes in ice quantity and quality, we will be able to predict how forecasted changes in ice may affect future POLAR BEAR populations. This will give managers the best chance of adapting strategies to assure long - term persistence of POLAR bears in changing ice environment.

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Range and Habitat

Unlike other large carnivores, polar bears do have territories, partly because their Sea ice habitat is always moving and seasonally changing, expanding in winter and retreating in summer. Polar bears in regions with less sea ice and fewer seals may travel further and have longer fasting periods. When a young polar bear grows up, it may travel more than 1 000 kilometers to set up home range apart from its mother's, although this remains scarcely a study topic, because tagging and tracking quickly maturing animals is tricky. Scientists believe that most polar bears limit travel to home ranges of a few hundred miles. However, they know of one satellite - tracked female that trekked 4 796 kilometers from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay to Greenland to Canada's Ellesmere Island and back to Greenland. Some sea ice lies over productive hunting areas, and some ice regions will melt sooner than others in the warming Arctic. Governments and scientists have designated 19 populations of Polar bears based in four different Sea ice regions in the Arctic. These populations function as distinct management units and are spread out among five countries: Canada, United States, Greenland, Russia, and Norway. Roughly 60% of Polar bears call Canada home. The following four sea ice ecoregions differ in geography, status, sea ice levels, and vulnerability to climate change. Well known for their slow, plodding gait, polar bears walk at about five to six kilometers per hour. Females with small cubs walk more slowly, about two - and - ahalf to four kilometers per hour. Polar bears are able to gallop as fast as horses over short distances but prefer to amble leisurely. Norwegian scientist Nils Oritsland shown the US that polar bears expend more than twice the energy of most other mammals when walking or running, showing higher - than - average increases in temperature and in oxygen consumption. Walking bears expend 13 times more energy than resting bears. This partly explains their preference for still - hunting, which usually involves long, patient waits for seal to surface at breathing hole in sea ice. Polar bears are listed under a variety of classifications depending on international, national, and regional regulations. Internationally, they are listed as vulnerable species by IUCN. In Russia, polar bears are classified as Red Data Book Species, listing that includes animals considered rare or endanger. In the US, polar bears are listed as threatened species under the endangered Species Act. Canada considers polar bears species of special concern under the National Species at Risk Act. On regional level in Canada, polar bears are listed as threaten in both Manitoba and Ontario under provincial Endangered Species legislation. In all cases, primary conservation concern for polar bears is habitat loss and reduced access to their seal prey due to climate change. Scientists predict that as the Arctic continues to warm, two - thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear within this century. Research also shows that hope remains for action to be taken to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions soon.

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Seasonal Distribution

Pregnant polar bears enter maternity dens in October or early November, give birth to cubs in December or early January, and exit dens in March or early April. Historically, most polar bears from the Southern Beaufort Sea population constructed maternity dens on sea ice. However, over the last three decades, as sea ice has become thinner and more prone to fragmentation, there has been a landward shift in distribution of dens. Base on data collected from radio - tagged adult female bears, maternal denning now occurs at relatively high densities along the central and eastern Arctic coastal plain of Alaska. The availability of denning habitat mediated by landscape features that facilitate formation of snow drifts appears to increase in the eastern portion of Alaska coastal plain. In Chukchi Sea, polar bears historically denned primarily on land in both Russia and Alaska. In recent years, as sea ice extent has retreated further North in fall, Chukchi Sea Polar bears have shifted land - base denning northward primarily on Wrangel and Herald Islands in Russia and rarely on the Alaskan coast. Identifying factors influencing distribution of dens and denning duration will allow us to better monitor reproductive success and mitigate the potential for disturbance of denned bears from anthropogenic activities.

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Status, Trends, and Threats

The largest Bear in the world and the Arctic's top predator, Polar Bears are powerful symbol of strength and endurance of the Arctic. Polar Bear's Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means Sea Bear. It's apt name for this majestic species, which spends much of its life in, around, or in the ocean - predominantly on sea ice. In United States, Alaska is home to two Polar Bear subpopulations. Consider talented swimmers, Polar Bears can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. They have thick layers of body fat and a water - repellent coat that insulates them from cold air and water. Polar Bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food. A polar bear might catch only one or two out of 10 seals it hunt, depending on time of year and other variables. Their diet mainly consists of ring and beard seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive. Polar Bears rely heavily on sea ice for traveling, hunting, resting, mating and, in some areas, maternal dens. But because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change - the primary threat to Polar Bears, Arctic - wide - Polar Bears were listed as Threatened Species in the US under the endangered Species Act in May 2008. As their Sea ice habitat recedes earlier in spring and forms later in fall, Polar Bears are increasingly spending longer periods on land, where they are often attracted to areas where humans live. Survival and protection of Polar Bear habitat are urgent issues for WWF. In October 2019, International Union for Conservation of Nature Polar Bear Specialist Group released a new assessment of Polar Bear populations showing that the number of Polar Bear subpopulations experiencing recent declines has increased to four, with eight populations still being data - deficient. The good news is that five populations are stable while two have been experiencing an upward trend.

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Populations

Nineteen populations of Polar Bears are distributed across the Arctic in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. These include: Southern Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Laptev Sea, Kara Sea, Barents Sea, East Greenland, Northern Beaufort, Kane Basin, Norwegian Bay, Lancaster Sound, gulf of Boothia, MClintock Channel, viscount Melville Sound, Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, Foxe Basin, Western Hudson Bay, Southern Hudson Bay and Arctic Basin. Alaska shares Southern Beaufort Sea stock with Canada and Bering / Chukchi Seas stock with the Russian Federation. Both are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and have been listed as threatened since 2008 under the endangered Species Act due to the threat posed by loss of sea - ice due to climate change and inadequacy of existing mechanisms to curtail that threat. As of 2020, combined number of Bears in two Alaska subpopulations is approximately 4 000.

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Critical Habitat

In 2010, Service designated Critical Habitat for Polar Bear through a formal rulemaking process. The designation was set aside in 2013 as result of legal challenges brought forward by several groups. That action was recently reversed by the courts and the original Designation has been reinstate. Services Final Rule designating Polar Bear Critical Habitat, as well as Maps of Critical Habitat, and other important information may be found at: these Maps and GIS shapefiles are provided as general guidance for those interested in the geographic extent of Polar Bear Critical Habitat. A Detailed description of Polar Bear Critical Habitat is available in Final Designation Rule Final Designation Rule. When Service designate Polar Bear Critical Habitat, we recognize the dynamic and ephemeral nature of Barrier islands. While basic shapefiles serve as general map, over time Barrier islands will change, erode, or accrete. Therefore, users interested in specific area should evaluate the current status of the geographic area of interest using satellite photography. For more information, please contact Sarah Conn, Service Field Supervisor, at sarah_conn fws. Gov Polar Bear Critical Habitat Maps Map 1 Map 2 Map 3 Shape files for Polar Bear Critical Habitat Barrier Island Denning Habitat Feeding Critical Habitat No Disturbance Zone

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PUBLICATIONS

Research on the ecology and status of polar bear populations in Alaska has continued since 1967. Research was a joint US Fish and Wildlife Service / Alaska Department of Fish and Game effort until passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, and has been largely Federal effort since then. In 1985, Alaskan polar beer research continued to be carried out by the Research Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. A recent reorganization removed authority for ecological Research in Alaska from Denver Wildlife Research Center, and vest it with the newly created Alaska Office of Fish and Wildlife Research. This new Research Office is Center For Federal Fish and Wildlife related Research throughout the state of Alaska and in its coastal waters. Although responsibility for Polar Bear Research lies with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, numerous other organizations and agencies deserve mention for their cooperation and support of ongoing research. These include: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Minerals Management Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Northwest Territories Wildlife Service, Yukon Wildlife Service, Dome Petroleum Ltd, Gulf Canada, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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STOCK ASSESSMENT REPORTS

Table

StockStatusFinal Revised SAR
Florida manatee ( Trichechus manatus latirostris )StrategicSAR and FR
Antillean manatee - Puerto Rico Stock ( Trichechus manatus manatus )StrategicSAR and FR
Southern sea otter ( Enhydra lutris nereis )StrategicSAR and FR
Northern sea otter - Washington Stock ( Enhydra lutris kenyoni )Non-strategicSAR and FR
Northern sea otter - Southwest Alaska Stock ( Enhydra lutris kenyoni )StrategicSAR and FR
Northern sea otter - Southcentral Alaska Stock ( Enhydra lutris kenyoni )Non-strategicSAR and FR
Northern sea otter - Southeast Alaska Stock ( Enhydra lutris kenyoni )Non-strategicSAR and FR
Pacific walrus ( Odobenus rosmarus divergens )StrategicSAR and FR
Polar bear - Chukchi/Bering Seas Stock ( Ursus maritimus )StrategicSAR and FR
Polar bear - Southern Beaufort Sea Stock ( Ursus maritimus )StrategicSAR and FR

Polar bears and walrus are under severe threat, and unless we act rapidly to reduce greenhouse pollution and protect their habitat from oil development, we stand to lose both of these icons of the Arctic, said Brendan Cumming, oceans program director at Center for Biological Diversity. Reports, issued pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, summarize information on population abundance and trends of polar bears and walrus, threats to species, and include calculations of human - cause mortality and whether that mortality is sustainable. There are two Polar bear populations in Alaska: Southern Beaufort Sea Stock, which is shared with Canada, and Chukchi / Bering Sea Stock, which is shared with Russia. Pacific walrus occurs in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and is shared with Russia. For Southern Beaufort Sea Polar bear stock, Fish and Wildlife Service estimate a minimum population of 1 397 bears and annual human - caused mortality of 54 animals, well above the calculated sustainable rate of 22 animals per year. The Stock Assessment States that the Southern Beaufort Sea population is now declining. For Chukchi / Bering Sea Polar bear Stock, service estimates a minimum population of 2 000 bears and an annual human - caused mortality of 37 animals from Alaska and between 150 - 250 bears killed per year in Russia. Calculate sustainable rate of harvest is 30 animals per year. Stock Assessment States that the population is believed to be declining and is reduced based on harvest levels that were demonstrated to be unsustainable. For Pacific walrus, service estimates a minimum population of 15 164 animals and annual human - caused mortality of between 4 963 and 5 460 animals. Calculate sustainable rate of harvest is 607 animals per year. Of three population estimates, only the estimate for well - studied Beaufort Sea Polar bears is considered reliable. The Chukchi / Bering Sea Polar bear population is based on incomplete data and could be overestimate, while the walrus estimate is underestimate as it only represents surveys in about half of walrus habitat and does not account for walrus not count because they were in water rather than hauled out on ice. These reports publicly confirm what scientists have known for several years: polar bear and walrus populations in Alaska are in trouble, add Cummings. And even if population numbers are not precise, we know that without their sea - ice habitat they are likely doom. The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that the secretary of interior and secretary of commerce prepare stock assessments for Marine Mammals. Assessments are meant to be used as the basis for management decisions such as permitting killing or harassment of animals from commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration, boating and shipping, and military exercises. To ensure that decision - makers have the most accurate information, stock assessments are supposed to be revised every year for Endangered Marine Mammals and every three years for other species.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Hunting

Subsistence is defined in Alaska state laws as noncommercial customary and traditional use of fish and wildlife. These uses include: food. In the 1990s, Division of Subsistence estimated that the average rural subsistence harvest statewide was about 375 pounds of food per person per year. That is more than the US average consumption of 255 pounds of domestic meat, fish, and poultry per year. Traditional foods are provided during funerals, potlatches, weddings, dances, and other ceremonial occasions. Sharing. Division research shows that fish and wildlife are widely shared with neighbors who cannot harvest for themselves because of age, disability, or other circumstances. Homes and other buildings. Spruce, birch, hemlock, willow, and cottonwood are used for house logs, fish racks, and many other items. Fuel. Wood is a major source of energy in rural homes, and is also used for smoking and preserving fish and meat. Clothing. Survey respondents report that wild furs and hides are still the best materials for ruffs, mittens, parkas, kuspuks, linings, and mukluks in many regions. Tools and home goods. Hides are used as sleeping mats. Seal skins are used AS pokes to store food. Wild grasses are made into baskets and mats. Transportation. Fish, seals, and other products are used to feed dog teams. Wood is used for sleds. Handicrafts. Division research shows that traditional products are also used in funerals, potlatches, weddings, dances, and other ceremonial occasions. Ivory, antlers, grass, wood, skins, and furs are crafted into beautiful items of art for sale and enjoyment. Customary and traditional uses also include barter AS well AS customary trade, which is narrowly defined AS limited noncommercial exchange, for minimal amounts of cash, AS restricted by appropriate Board, of fish or game resources. Specialized products like seal oil are bartered and exchanged in traditional trade networks between communities. Furs sold to outside markets provide an important source of income for many rural areas. The primary requirement for participation in Subsistence Fishing or Hunting is Alaska residency, which is defined AS having lived in Alaska for 12 consecutive months. Answer. General Hunting and sport Fishing are not classified as customary and traditional uses by the Alaska Board of Fisheries and Alaska Board of Game. While Subsistence Fisheries uses highly efficient gear, especially nets and fish wheels, most sports fishing takes place with rod and reel. Sport Fisheries is open to non - Alaska residents, while only Alaskans may participate in Subsistence Fisheries. Wild resources taken in sports fisheries may not be barter. In many areas of the state, regulations for Alaska resident general hunts and regulations for Subsistence hunts are the same. If there are not enough animals to provide for general hunts, Alaska Board of Game adopts Regulations to provide for subsistence opportunities while still sustaining the population. For more information, see our Subsistence Hunting and Trapping Regulations information.

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Day 1 - Fairbanks

Welcome to Fairbanks, Alaska's second - largest city. You will arrive on your scheduled flight, be picked up at the airport and transferred to our local hotel. You will share our Welcome Dinner in the evening in downtown Fairbanks. Fairbanks is called Golden Heart of Alaska, reference to the character of her people as much as to the location in Alaska's interior, or to the discovery of gold in 1902. Its central location makes it a focal point for tiny villages scattered throughout the surrounding wilderness, and Fairbanks is the staging point for North Slope villages such as Barrow and the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. Yet, unlike Anchorage, it still retains its down home frontier feel. It is contained within North Star Borough, similar to county, but roughly the size of New Jersey!

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Sources

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