“…A recent federal aerial survey found nine polar bears swimming in Alaska‘s Chukchi Sea, with one at least 60 miles from shore…”It is very unusual to see so many bears in the open water at one time during a short flight period,” Williams said, noting that government scientists spotted the bears over a six-hour period. “It’s very worrisome. It’s what we had anticipated, but it’s happening right before our eyes.”
By comparison, federal scientists spotted a total of 12 polar bears swimming in the open ocean between 1987 and 2003. The federal government conducts the aerial surveys not to assess the status of polar bears in the region, but to determine whether bowhead whales in the Arctic will be affected by offshore oil development there.
Even if researchers spot polar bears swimming in distress, they cannot rescue them, as attempts to tranquilize the bears would cause them to drown. In May,Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, saying diminishing sea ice jeopardized their ability to survive in the foreseeable future, but he argued such a listing should not prompt the government to regulate greenhouse gases linked to global warming…”
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