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Polar Bears Struggle to Survive as Arctic Climate Changes

As climate change threatens polar bears' survival, laws put in place to protect the bears are impacting the Inuit people who have long hunted them. ITN's ITV news reports on the plight of both polar bears and Native people in the Canadian Arctic.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, two reports on the polar bears' struggle to survive in a changing climate. Lawrence McGinty of Independent Television News filed this story from Churchill on Canada's Hudson Bay.

  • LAWRENCE MCGINTY, ITN ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT:

    Amid the broken rubble of sea ice, a forlorn polar bear unable to hunt seals, unable to go where it wants, a refugee almost in its own land, stranded because the sea ice on the Hudson Bay is forming weeks later than it used to.

    The sea ice we're flying over is where the polar bears live. It's their niche in the world. It's their supermarket where they get meat from hunting seals. It's their highway for traveling around the Arctic region. It's their school where they teach cubs how to hunt.

    We'd come to meet Canada's foremost expert on polar bears, Andrew Derocher.

    Hi, Andy. Lawrence McGinty, hi, please to meet you.

    DR. ANDREW DEROCHER, University of Alberta: Hey, good to see you.

  • LAWRENCE MCGINTY:

    Andrew is a biology professor who's studied polar bear populations for 28 years.

  • DR. ANDREW DEROCHER:

    When it comes to the loss of sea ice, the major issue there is that you're cutting down the amount of time that the bears have to feed. We're just basically taking them away from their primary habitat, where they have access to seals, and we're forcing them onshore. In this area, when they come ashore, they really don't have much to eat.

  • LAWRENCE MCGINTY:

    One reason our pilot, Lynn, is on watch with a shotgun ready to chase off any hungry bears.

  • DR. ANDREW DEROCHER:

    Two to three times as many bears are not feeding in the springtime. And this is the best time of year for feeding.

    So we really are concerned that this is just another one of these symptoms. And when you add them all together between drowning bears, we're seeing increased cannibalism in other areas, many areas we're also seeing more problem bears.

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