Rather than euthanize a polar bear that had become too accustomed to humans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) explained that the bear was instead captured and transported to the Alaska Zoo, where it will spend the remainder of its life. While not ideal, putting it down would have been worse.
Due to global warming and habitat encroachment, polar bears are facing difficult existences these days. With the ice floes they count on for hunting all but melting away — disrupting their feeding practices in the process — predictions for their future are grim. As their populations decline, preserving the species in protected environments like zoos or sanctuaries seemed to be the only option.
Polar Bear Program
Estimated to be between 10-11 months old, the male polar bear cub had recently been seen roaming alone near Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay before it was captured and transported to the Alaska Zoo. The reason: it was deemed a public safety threat. Since it’s been detained, its condition was described as “fair to good” despite a minor cut to its lip.
“The decision to remove this bear from the wild was not made lightly,” stated David Gustine, lead biologist for the USFWS’ Polar Bear Program. “Removing a bear is not a good outcome for the individual or the wild population, but we felt it was the best course of action in this situation.”
“It had been observed eating a fox. Lacerations on its upper lip are likely from that activity,” noted Alaska Zoo executive director Patrick Lampi. “With rabies in fox prevalent in the Prudhoe Bay area, we have special extended quarantine procedures in place for this cub.”
The USFWS related that “given the bear’s behavior around humans and its young age, it will not be returned to the wild.”
Momma polar bears usually keep their cubs with them for at least two years, so it’s unclear why this little guy (for a polar bear) was out there on his own. The last time an orphaned cub was removed from the wild in Alaska was back in 2013. A male discovered alone in Point Lay, he was sent to live at the Saint Louis Zoo. Polar Bears are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
On Greater Good’s The Rainforest Site, there’s a petition entitled “Polar Bears are Facing Extinction, Not Just Vulnerability” that you can sign. Doing so gives readers the opportunity to tell the IUCN to consider climate change, and the devastation it’s causing polar bears. Learn more.Whizzco