Polar Bear Myths That Just Won't Quit

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 15:50

Like seals popping up at breathing holes, the myth that polar bear numbers are increasing has resurfaced on some blog posts and news shows, with claims that polar bears have increased from 5,000 in the 1960s to 20,000 to 25,000 today. But the truth is that scientists have no idea how many bears there were in the 1960s—only guesses—because the first population studies had not yet been done.

Journalist Peter Dykstra reports on the history of this oft-repeated myth in his article, Magic Number: A Sketchy “Fact” About Polar Bears Keeps Going and Going and Going, and our chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, addresses the question on our website.

The other polar bear myth that has been dusted off and repackaged has to do with the claim that polar bears can survive on goose eggs and berries instead of seals. Polar bears are opportunistic feeders and will eat geese, kelp, and other foods—but these foods don't provide enough calories to sustain them. Amstrup responds to this question in our Expert Q & A—and in the video below.

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