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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Hungry Polar Bear

Air Date: Week of

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Without access to sea ice to hunt seals, a polar bear’s chances of finding fat and protein-rich meals are much slimmer. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

On a trip to the warming Arctic, Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender finds plastic is ubiquitous and polar bears are hungry.


CURWOOD: As arctic sea-ice melts, polar bears find themselves these days on ice-free land, littered with plastic and washed up garbage, and without any good source of food. That has hungry bears looking for alternatives, which Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender found rather disquieting.

Big White Dog Wants to Play!
© 2017 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

LENDER: The Big White Dog pads down the rocky beach, towards shore, 600 miles from the Pole. Someone’s come to visit him. Oh boy! He’s been sooooo boooored. No one to, ah, play… with…. No one to run… with… No one to throw him doggy treats though right about now Big White Dog would much prefer a bleeding hunk of red… meat…. Well-marbled. The fatter the better. Cholesterol’s not his enemy, only the weather. Which right about now is warm. Toooooo warm! And all his play… mates…. They’re gone. He’s not sure where. He sure does hope they’ll be back… soon... Right where they used to be only a couple of yummy months before.

A polar bear on an ice-free shoreline. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

But in the meantime here are all these New… Friends… In their friendly rubber boat! There are so many of them to choose… from… It’s so hard to decide he has to sit himself down like a Good! Dog! On his Big White Paws. With railroad spikes for claws and his canine teeth like the rule of law in this… lawless… place.

And like all polar bears he has that goofy smile from his blue-black lips following the line of his jaw. He is so fluffy! And furry! You can’t imagine he’d do you a lick… of harm.

Big White Dog picks at the carcass of a long-dead bird and chews the feathers, spits out the bones, and wishes the whole thing tasted better. And walks, inland, over the plastic that decorates the flotsam line in red and blue and green, and the sticks that were a forest in Siberia cut down and washed up here, and water-rounded lumps of coal, and fishing gear, and the oil slick.

Plastic and other pollutants litter this rocky Arctic habitat. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

And it’s polar bears we fear.

CURWOOD: Mark Seth Lender’s pictures of the hungry polar bear are at our web site – loe dot org.



Read Mark Seth Lender's Field Note from this story on plastic pollution

For more about polar bears, visit Mark’s website

Support for Mark’s fieldwork was provided by One Ocean Expeditions


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