The last estimate confirms, according to the newspaper The Observer, scientists' concerns that polar bears in Western Hudson Bay have a small chance of surviving in the long term.
The first numbers from a surveillance program are from 1987, when the population was 1,200 animals. Today they make up 850. Because these polar bears are located relatively far south they are exposed to a greater risk due to global warming than other populations. Nonetheless, scientists believe up to 65 percent of the world's polar bears could be lost by 2050 due to climate change.
Scientists in Norway are following the changes in the ice carefully. This winter so far in Svalbard has been warmer than usual. In addition, warm water has been pushed northward by southerly winds. Although researcher Jon Aars thinks things are mostly good with the population today, he does not feel safe about the future.
"Continuing the tend of less and less ice, at some time there is finally a critical limit, as we see a tendency toward with some other populations today," he said. "Then it will be difficult for polar bears in Svalbard to survive and reproduce."
The ice-free season in Hudson Bay has been extended every year for the past 30 years, extending in 2012 to 143 full days. According to researchers, the critical limit is 160 days. If the ice-free period is longer, the polar bears will not survive, writes The Observer.