June 24, 2014
Strap A GoPro To A Polar Bear, Get Amazing Footage

Filmmaker Adam Ravetch was able to capture stunning video of polar bears searching for sea ice using a GoPro camera, and he is using it to highlight the challenges the arctic predators face as climate change radically alters the landscape in which they evolved.

Ravetch, an award-winning cinematographer who heads Arctic Bear Productions, captured the video by attaching a GoPro camera to one of a group of four polar bears, as io9 reports. The edited short, which was featured on GoPro's YouTube channel, follows the polar bears as they search for sea ice, which is necessary for the animals to hunt seals. Polar bears face a vast challenge from climate change as melting sea ice shrinks the habitat necessary for their prey, rapidly altering the environment in which the animals live. In the video, the four bears manage to reach land, but fail to find any ice.

As Polar Bears International reports, the animals will sometimes travel hundreds of miles to follow retreating ice floes in the summer months. Seals form a crucial food source for the predators, and bears rarely catch them in open water or on land. If they are stranded on land in the summer, polar bears must often wait until the ice forms again in the fall to effectively hunt, when access to their main source of prey is restored.

Survival hinges on sea ice for polar bears, which stalk seals as a main source of prey
Survival hinges on sea ice for polar bears, and retreating floes present a unique challenge for the species

Polar bears are currently listed as vulnerable on The ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. The assessment points to a reduction of the species' population in excess of 30% over the course of the last 45 years, largely due to the declining quality of their habitat. Highlighting models of sea ice change that predict "dramatic reductions" over the course of the next century, the ICUN contends that "global climate change posses a substantial threat to the habitat of polar bears." While bear species are generally known to be adaptable, polar bears are nonetheless "highly specialized for life in the Arctic marine environment," and have low reproductive rates, factors which work against their ability to effectively meet dramatic changes in habitat.

There are other methods by which polar bears may adapt to environmental change. As The Inquisitr previously reported, a study released last year highlighted the fact that a unique population of bears in Alaska's ABC islands were the result of hybridization between polar bears and brown bears.

While the species may face significant challenges in the coming generation, footage like that captured by Ravetch provides a unique window into the volatile, changing world that polar bears inhabit.

[Images via io9 and CBC]