Why Are Alaska Polar Bears Losing Their Fur?

| May 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

PoleybearScientists are afflictive to determine why some polar bears in Alaska are suffering from fur loss and skin lesions, and whether the manifestation is related to a disease that has been killing seals in the neighborhood.

According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) supreme biologist Tony DeGange, scientists examined 33 bears for the period of routine field studies in the southerly Beaufort Sea region near Barrow in late March and early April; of those, nine had fur damage, or alopecia, and other skin lesions. DeGange says that, though it is not atypical to light upon some bears with those symptoms, it is unusual to discover the ailments in in such a manner many in such a short time.

“The highest day we observed it was attached March 21st and we had three captures and two of them had alopecia, and in such a manner it was like, ‘Oh that’s entertaining,’” he told the Alaska Public Radio Network. “Then we started picking it up on other animals in later March in this way it was like, this is added than normal.”

ANALYSIS: Wounded Black Bears Sleep It Off

Biologists collected lineage and tissues from the affected bears to try and decide if the symptoms are related to a recondite illness that has been found in seals and walruses. That infirmity was first noticed last summer, at the time 60 seals were found dead and not the same 75 diseased. Most of the coxcomical animals were ringed seals, which are polar bears’ primary prey; but ribbon, bearded, and dotted seals were also stricken.

In joining to the sores, afflicted seals as a common thing showed labored breathing and lethargy. Walruses were likewise found with similar symptoms affecting their pelt and fur, but mostly appeared else healthy, as do the polar bears that get been examined.

ANALYSIS: Walrus Attacks Ducks in Rare Footage

USGS scientists are continuing their polar carry field studies near Kaktovik, close to the Canadian confine, and will conclude in the Prudhoe Bay tract in mid-May. Since the initial reports from northern Alaska, diseased seals own been reported in adjacent regions of Canada and Russia and from the Bering Strait locality. Despite extensive testing for a ample variety of well known infectious agents, the reason remains unknown. 

Photograph by Kieran Mulvaney

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