LISTEN: Alaska polar bear den disturbances part of ‘death by a thousand cuts,’ researcher says

A female polar bear and cub. (File photo)

An extensive study of how Alaska’s oil industry can disturb denning polar bears is featured in a recent edition of the journal ARCTIC.

It says that at the same time as climate change is melting sea ice and forcing polar bears to spend more time on land, they are increasingly vulnerable to disturbances from development on the North Slope.

The study’s authors say current requirements for industry to stay at least one mile from known polar bear dens are working. But they’ve also found that the industry’s current den-detection methods miss more than half of the dens. And they say all of this is particularly troubling with seismic testing ramping up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One of the study’s authors is Wesley Larson, a researcher at Brigham Young University and a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International. Larson spoke to Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove, and he says the fact that polar bears live in an area rich with oil and gas invariably puts the bears and humans into conflict.

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