A polar bear in Alaska swam nine days across the Beaufort Sea before finding a piece of ice to haul out on, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Wyoming have learned.
Her yearling cub didn't make it. What a scientist called the "ordeal" of Bear 20741 was documented in the journal Polar Biology, and while it may not have been unprecedented -- shrinking Arctic ice has led to frequent reports not only of long-distance swims, but even cannibalism -- the study provided some of the best documentation to date of the real-world conditions of a polar bear on a warming planet.
Researchers outfitted the bear with a GPS-equipped collar, and also a temperature sensor planted deep under her skin to track how her body adapted to swimming constantly in the frigid waters.
The bear lost more than 100 pounds during the swim, which began east of Barrow, Alaska and ended, after ranging more than 400 miles offshore, back at the Beaufort coast near the Canadian border.
-- Kim Murphy
Photo: Shrinking Arctic ice has led to frequent reports of not only long-distance swims by polar bears, but cannibalism as well. (This is not the polar bear that made the nine-day swim.) Credit: Arctic Bear Productions