Arctic Bears

Out of an Ice Age emerged one of our most majestic creatures — the polar bear. From its brown bear ancestry, the predator evolved to be a master of a harsh and unwelcoming ice kingdom. Intelligent, adaptable and fierce, the polar bear learned how to survive in a place that offers few comforts to any creature. But now that very environment is in flux. And so is the polar bear’s fate.

The Arctic is changing. As temperatures slowly rise and the ice recedes, the shore is getting further away. Food sources that the polar bear have come to rely on are becoming less plentiful. In this changing climate, the polar bear is already showing signs of distress.

While polar bears struggle, opportunistic grizzlies fare well, as they benefit from the melting Arctic’s effects on its ecosystem. While the grizzly moves into newly opened territories, the polar bear can only wait for the freezing of its one-time kingdom. If the changing world proclaims the grizzly the new king of the Arctic, what will become of the polar bear?

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Online content for Arctic Bears was originally posted February 2008.

  • Donald Harris

    climate change, global warming, polar bears all real items of concern. This has been a wonderful life and world unfortunatly mankind has all but destroyed it. It’s sad watching the whole thing fall apart. The decline of one species after another. Even “old Homo SAP” killing himself too!!

  • loittle

    that is so unfair they should plant more trees and add more ecosystems

  • Bob

    Everything has to end one day…even us. We are at the beginning of the end and poor bears might just be our envoys to the abyss.

  • Cole

    I wonder if the polar bears will go extinct in my lifetime.

  • Eve King

    I wonder if some will adapt and inter breed with the grizzly, creating a “new bear” some of which can move between both worlds.

  • matthew stewart

    This was a great documentary and much needed for Americans to see, however this is the third time it has aired in the last year. I am glad that it is on, but I know that there are more documentaries on how climate change is affecting other animals and ecosystems. I am wondering why we don’t see those as well. I hope there is not an attempt to push the effects of climate change as far north and out of the lives of Americans, because it is affecting us all over the world not just in the Arctic. Thanks for the great shows.

  • Robert Anderson

    I think its been the beginning of the end for a long time now. we still have time if we act now to fight global warming fast like stop and think governments obviously don’t care we the people got to do some thing to buy time so every month we shut down the country for a day and each country after that till it comes around again .We are all responsible lets do it not just talk about it.

  • Cesious Fox

    What a great episode, to commiserate for the Polar Bear. I liked how both the Arctic Fox and the Polar Bear help each other out in surviving in winter, and summer seasons. It’s sad that their habitat is changing because of great warmth in the Arctic, but all we can do is support them. So they may well adapt to their changing surroundings. There’s not much we can do about this, since human activity in the release of Carbon Dioxide is nothing compared to the the eruptions of volcanos, releasing 130 million tons of deadly chemicals in the air 56 times a day. Its nature were up against, and we need to cope, and help out every animal in need, as our duty as the top predator. And thank you PBS, for showing “Nature” without any human presence in it (but the short glimpse with the Polar Bear Hunters). I look forward to more great “Nature” shows in the future.

  • David Ronin

    I don’t watch nature programs. However, during commercials while watching the AFC conference championship football game, I did some channel surfing—and happened upon the arctic bears program. I kept going back to it during commercial brags and lulls in the action (of which there were many).

    Damned if I didn’t get hooked on it. I ended up staying with it and letting the game go until the Nature program was over. That’s how good this arctic bears installment was.

    I don’t know how they did it, but they made it simultaneously poignant and highly educational. Seeing a mother polar bear and her cub go through a year, in part by trying to eat, say, mother seals and their pups, took the sentimentality out of it yet made it very touching, paradoxically. And the way the script worked in the commentary about the recent climate changes and the impact on the bears’ survivability was very well done. It gave it a sort of personal touch rather than just reciting statistics.

    As I said, I normally don’t watch nature programs at all. But this program was so engaging that when it ended I couldn’t help but wish for a sequel, to see how this mother and her cub fared the following year. Either I’m getting soft-headed or this particularly program was extremely well done. I’m going to get it on DVD and give it to a young relative as a birthday present so I can have a good excuse to watch it again.

  • Paul

    Not “they should plant more trees,” we all should plant more trees.

  • Ryan Dougherty

    It is hard to change a species(such as humans)that do not want to accept change. So many people refuse to do simple acts to help global warming, just do to the fact that it interferes with there regular day routine. Humans are creatures of habit. So many people will preach that we should do this or that to help with global warming, but at the same time do nothing thereselves. Thus the saying people who live in glass houses shouldnt throw stones. Hats off PBS to the Polar Bear documentary it was certainly an eye opener. I hope it has had the same effect on other people as it did me.

  • Ryan Dougherty

    Its documentaries like these that real open ones eyes. The terrible thing about this whole ordeal is: that most people would watch this show and feel sorry for the polar bears, but do nothing to help.Humans are creatures of habit and anything that involves having to change our daily routines will be opposed. It will unfortuanately take a catastrophic event for the whole of mankind to come together and act on this pressing issue. Great show PBS keep up the good work.

  • caroline rox

    thats so cool! you should provide more information!

  • Rene AAC

    We must change our habits/vices, our pride is the only thing that is keeping us away from better times, our laziness condemns us & the whole world to be recycled viciously by Mother Nature!

    Study Finds New Evidence of Warming in Antarctica
    Published: January 21, 2009

  • Laura

    This is one of the funniest natures I have ever seen. Really? Grizzly bears changed into [became] Polar bears? Hmmm. Why are there still some Grizzly bears around? They just didn’t want to change? Where in the world is the logic to this? I am extremely amazed that anyone can actually buy this.
    Much of the information in Nature is great, but let’s just stick to the verifiable facts. “Polar bears should be classified as marine animals, like seals?” Should one mention an idea like that on a supposedly factual program? I am sorry, but please continue to give us good information, not personal ideas.

  • ellen backy

    Beautiful and sad tale, wonderfully shot and told. I am amazed at the plight of our “Natural Alarm Ringers” effort to survive. They need our help, and in king we shall help ourselves. No more running around yelling the “sky is falling”. WE must get involved, demand the protection of our wildlife, as when they go, the hope that something “else” will replace it, or evolve is not good, as our Government in the past has had little true regard for the preservation of wildlife, or of their terrain. If they can make a buck off of it, maybe then.

    We should not have to watch any animal become extinct. It is worth or fighting to stop global warming, and fighting to save wildlife, for ourselves and posterity. In the end, we will only be saving ourselves, our enviorment, and that of our children and theirs. High hopes for the new Administration. Let us pray! Ellen

  • coffeegirl

    i missed the original air date along with its rerun rotations in mid jan of 2009, i have desperately trying to find a link to watch via online without any luck, help anyone?!? thanks so much in advance!

  • polar bears…

    the polar bears and grisslys are mating and makeing a new bear called a growl or somthing similar to that word… the polar bears are trying to adapt to the new world changing! its evolution.

  • Christian

    “Grizzly bears changed into [became] Polar bears? Hmmm. Why are there still some Grizzly bears around? They just didn’t want to change?” – Laura

    Does it take energy to be that uninformed and still breathe? Evolution doesn’t simply round up all the grizzlys and make them polar bears. Migration, allopatric speciation, and genetic drift within isolated populations all can cause a segment of a species to adapt to a new environment that the other bears, who have not encountered that environment, would not be pressured into.
    All of this information is available to high school biology students.

    Ignorance … of a stunning degree.

  • Mike


  • Dave

    Ursus maritimus. The maritime bear. Don’t you people get it? You’re being used by corporations and mega non-for-profits to buy into global warming propaganda! Does anyone REALLY think Al Gore (who started this whole drowning bear side-effect of global warming) is an environmentalist!? Look at how he and other corporate types live! Wake up people! See the light! Climate change is real, but there’s no scientific evidence that it is man-made, only propaganda from people selling things.

  • Steve

    “Grizzly bears changed into [became] Polar bears? Hmmm. Why are there still some Grizzly bears around? They just didn’t want to change?” – Laura

    Wow. So just because you were born, all your cousins have to have died out? Evolution is not a linear path, it’s a branching family tree.

    “Don’t you people get it? You’re being used by corporations and mega non-for-profits…” – Dave

    Al Gore didn’t make any of this up, he’s just a parrot – repeating what scientists have been saying for years. I wish people would not allow their own political opinions of a person to cloud the way they see the world.

    Much respect for the way Nature portrayed the facts – ice is receding because the earth is warming. Period.

    Now are you going to help clean up your small portion of the ecosystem, or whine about your wild megacorp conspiracy theories and a soon-to-be-forgotten politician?

  • Dan Shaffer

    This program is an unproven hypothesis. There is no proof of grizzly bears evolving into polar bears. No proof of any other creature evolving either. Otherwise I thought the work was beautiful and informative.

  • al gore

    i don’t think ppl know how to do their own research. we are in the age of information and we still need pbs and al gore to tell us the facts? look up polar bear stats.
    look up the north pole temps (you might be surprised.. it’s not sunny and 70 up there). look up “south” pole ice.. look up global cooling of the 70’s.. look up the % of co2 humans put into the atmosphere vs natural co2 .. imo this is just another money making catch phrase. save the whales
    save the baby seals, spotted owl, panda, mountain gorillas … redwoods .. whatever the list goes on. global warming didn’t really stick so they changed it to climate change … how conveniently vague.
    wake up people you have been worker bees for the “non profits” long enough.

  • zack

    they are so cute but we have to save the arctic

  • lily

    The Polar Bears are so cool and cute! what will become of the polar bear? I hope they live!

  • lovelife

    this animals are veay beautful and we need to help them and give them the respct they need

  • makaylia

    polar bears are cute

  • josee

    i like this page

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  • Losers

    die bears!!!

  • :)

    ^^^^^ KID ABOVE FAILS.

    I hope Polar bears don’t go extinct, if they do, i’ll just cry. :’(

  • West

    Isn’t this a prove that human multireginal & parallel evolution without gene flow, can be a viable hypothesis?

  • Andy

    Polar bears are not endangered by climate change (which is not man-made) Polar bear populations have exploded over the last 50 years. They are incredible swimmers that are capable of swimming many miles. Those pictures we see of them on ice sheets are easily explainable as well as they are hunting!!! Everyone should go read the studies.

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  • Macie

    actually global warming has a direct relationship to the amount of heat given of by the sun… so our use of energy has very little if any affect on global warming. The kind of star we have is the kind when it is old will become bigger and hotter. If the earth is warming up it’s nothing we can do about it, all we can do is learn to adaped to the warmer temperatures.

  • macie

    Don’t worry polabears will not go extinct, they are the same kind as grisalie bears, and all the other kind of bears that have 27 cromasomes. polabears and the other bears are breading togther, so the genetic material will always be there. even if the cubs will end up living like grislys. they polabear can always come back.

  • sarah

    Bears are so Cute!! no matter how dangerous they are.

  • pippy

    i wonder if it will effect the polar bearsif they move them to the south pole

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