Thursday, March 15, 2007

Natural range

Though it spends time on land and ice, the polar bear is regarded as a marine mammal due to its intimate relationship with the sea. The circumpolar species is found in and around the Arctic Ocean, its southern range limited by pack ice. Their southernmost point is James Bay in Canada. While their numbers thin north of 88 degrees, there is evidence of polar bears all the way across the Arctic. Population is estimated to be between 20,000 to 25,000.

The main population centers are:

Wrangell Island and western Alaska
Northern Alaska
Canadian Arctic archipelago
Svalbard-Franz Josef Land
North-Central Siberia

Their range is limited by the availability of that sea ice they use as a platform for hunting seals, the mainstay of their diet. The destruction of its habitat on the Arctic ice threatens the bear's survival as a species; it may become functionally extinct within the century. Signs of this have already been observed at the southern edges of its range.

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