4 min read

Polar Bear Gets Lost At Sea Because There's Not Enough Ice

He was so hungry and exhausted 🙁

This polar bear was out looking for food — and before he knew it, he was stranded more than 400 miles from home.

After hitching a ride on an ice floe, the bear floated ashore 434 miles away to the Russian village of Tilichiki on the Kamchatka peninsula. There simply wasn’t enough ice in the water for him to change directions, and by the time he made it ashore, he was exhausted.

Geoff York, director of conservation for Polar Bears International, said it’s common this time of year to see polar bears travel long distances across the Arctic to scavenge for food due to rising temperatures that come with the season — but in the coming years, this could mean trouble for the bears.

“We do see polar bears showing up in unusual places from time to time, and there is some concern that this could become more frequent as the Arctic warms and sea ice continues to melt,” York told The Dodo. “Polar bears, like most wildlife, have pretty amazing abilities regarding navigation. But for an animal that lives atop drifting sea ice, sometimes you have to go with the flow — literally.”

In the past, polar bears have wandered into Fort Yukon and Arctic Village in Alaska for this very reason, and in these situations the bears end up alarming people when they wander too closely into villages searching for food. In extreme cases, the bears are killed because they’re seen as a risk.

“Sadly, most of these extralimital encounters end with alarmed people and dead polar bears,” York said.

While some past cases have ended in death for the bear, this animal was lucky. Videos posted online by locals show the bear calmly walking past locals as they offered him some fish and called wildlife authorities. Upon reports of his arrival, a rescue team planned to capture and relocate the bear to his original home via helicopter.

While York is certain other factors contributed to this bear's exhaustion, he said it’s clear that as ice continues to shrink in the Arctic, it can only mean danger for the polar bears.

“We do know from other regions that early breakup is associated with negative impacts to polar bears,” York said. “This offers reduced hunting opportunities, decreased body condition, negative impact on reproduction, and in the worst case: negative impacts on survival.”

To help polar bears like this one in the wild, you can make a donation to Polar Bears International.