Friends of Animals has submitted the following comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a petition to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Supervisor Scott Schliebe
Polar Bear Project Leader
Marine Mammals Management Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 East Tudor Road
Anchorage, Alaska 99503
Via Fax to (907) 786-3495
Dear Scott Schliebe,
In response to the request for public comments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, as published in the Federal Register on 8 February 2006, the following comments are submitted on behalf of Friends of Animals, North America’s most respected animal rights organization, founded in 1957.
Friends of Animals urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take immediate action to address the threats faced by polar bears (Ursus maritimus) due to the effects of global warming.
Arctic ice is obviously essential to the survival of polar bears, as it determines their range and ability to hunt and raise their young. It is disappearing at an alarming rate and we must take immediate action if we are to spare polar bears from global extinction.
The Arctic ice pack is melting earlier in the summer and taking longer to freeze in the winter. As we now know, the top of the world is ground zero for global warming. It is the first part of Earth to show dramatic effects from the heating of the atmosphere and oceans. Thus, the polar bears’ frozen habitat is rapidly shrinking.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and the Canadian Wildlife Service found that the population of polar bears in Canada’s western Hudson Bay — near the southernmost habitat for the bears in the world — fell to 935 in 2004 from 1,194 in 1987, a 22% drop.
All told, climate change has reduced the ice at the North Pole by 15-20 percent in only three decades, concluded the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, published at the International Scientific Symposium on Climate Change in Reykjavik, Iceland. More than 300 scientists from 15 countries and six aboriginal groups contributed to the four-year study, which suggests the Arctic is warming at twice the global average rate and temperatures there could be 4-7 degrees Celsius higher by 2100. Siberia and Alaska have already warmed by 2 to 3 degrees since 1950. The report suggests summer sea ice around the North Pole may almost disappear by the end of the century.
With the ice disappearing, many bears are left no choice but to swim for miles to find food. As a result, an alarming number of polar bears have been spotted in open waters, and drownings are no longer rare occurrences. 
Polar bears cannot afford further delays. Richard Steiner, a marine biologist at the University of Alaska, put the point clearly in a recent interview with Friends of Animals: “For anyone who has wondered how global warming and reduced sea ice will affect polar bears, the answer is simple: They die.”
We urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act now by listing polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Washington, DC Director
- Jane Kay, “Polar Warning” – San Francisco Chronicle (15 Jan. 2006) (quoting Scott Schliebe and other scientists on the issue).
- See Jim Carlton “Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears?,” Wall Street Journal (14 Dec. 2005).