Arctic: walruses and polar bears return to their usual way of life

For the first time in two decades, the temperature in the Pacific Ocean has grown. This allowed the permanent inhabitants, walruses and bears, to return to the ice and to their usual way of life.

Anatoly Kochnev, candidate of biological sciences, specialist in marine mammals, researcher of the Beringia National Park, tells RIA Novosti reporters:

“First of all, we can talk about a cold snap in Chukotka and Alaska, because there, in the places (on the coast), which have been occupied by walruses for the last 20 years, this year they were not … This is not an anomaly, this is a return to normal. 20 years, when there was a warming. Now the ice is not as heavy as it was 40 years ago, for example, but they are close to that. I’m glad for walruses and bears, they all got a break. “

The scientist notes that, due to the cooling, the ice in the coastal waters this year lasted the whole summer without melting. And walruses, which had previously been forced to move ashore due to warming, returned to the ice again:

“They are adapted for this, they need ice. Previously, there were no walruses in those places (on the shore), bears rarely entered, because they all lived happily on the ice. On the coast, walruses choose capes, closed from the wind. And when there is ice, they drift on it, they do not need to spend energy on moving: they dived, ate from the bottom, emerged on the ice floe and sleep. During this time, the ice floe will be blown away – they they will dive elsewhere. “

For the last 2 decades, walruses have had a hard time. In order to feed, the animals had to swim hundreds of kilometers from the rookeries located on the shore. Where there are a lot of worms and mollusks – the usual food for walruses. The scientist says:

“Despite the intensive nutrition, they only lost weight, because they spent more energy than they received. There were many thin, emaciated animals, there was a high mortality rate. And now they are on the ice, everything is fine. Bears also go to the ice. The problem is for them was that when there is no ice, they cannot hunt seals. They love them more than walruses – they are tastier, fatter, easier to get, you can’t get them with fangs. “

With the warming in recent years, everything has changed – the shrinking ice has forced walruses to come ashore en masse, and bears to follow them, switching to new food. However, bears could hunt walruses before, but this was rather an exception to the rule. The climate change situation has forced predators to seriously switch to new food. Kochnev continues:

“But as soon as the ice appeared, they do not need to risk and attack walruses, they can safely feed on seals. At Cape Schmidt, where polar bears constantly came ashore (in previous years), this year they lived on ice and only went out then. when the storm began and the ice floes broke. In a day or two, the sea calmed down, the ice was set again, and the bears ran back to it. There were a lot of seals on the ice. “

The scientist notes a certain shift this year – the ice carried the bears to the east, where earlier it was extremely rare to see them. He believes that, nevertheless, the situation with a cold snap on the Chukotka coast will not persist for a long time, the warming trend will return. However, hopes for the best:

“If he doesn’t come back, it will be great. Previously, we worried about bears and walruses, for which ice reduction is a burden on the population and a chance to disappear, and if there is a steady trend towards cooling, the area of ​​sea ice will grow again and there will be no threat to animals In this case, it will be necessary to rearrange the emphasis in research and study how the animals were influenced by the warming years, whether they continue to use the acquired habits. the cooling trend is stable, not temporary. “

Reference: the polar bear is in the Red Book of Russia and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The number of animals is steadily declining. The main reasons are poaching, a decrease in the area of ​​sea ice as a result of climate change, and pollution of the Arctic natural environment. Since 1957, polar bear hunting has been prohibited.

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