BEAR DEN, Jago River Delta, Beaufort Sea coast, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 2002
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain is the only land conservation area in the United States for denning polar bears. Climate change is having significant impact on marine species that critically depend on sea ice, including polar bears, walrus, ringed seals and seabirds. The international scientific community is predicting that if there is a complete loss of summer sea ice cover in the Arctic, polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species. At the same time scientists are predicting such loss of sea ice in the next few decades. Pregnant females go in these temporary dens in October-November, give birth during December-January and nurse their cubs inside the den until March-April at which point they emerge from the dens with usually one or two cubs. At that time, the mothers have not eaten for five to seven months and they critically require good spring ice for seal hunting to feed themselves and to nurse their cubs. United States Government has been pushing hard to open up both the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge for onshore and the Beaufort and the Chukchi Seas of the Alaskan Arctic for offshore oil and gas development. Such industrial projects will only exacerbate the fate of these bears.