Extinction At The Top Of The Food Chain

Zac Unger reports on the likelihood of polar bear extinction:

When I asked [polar bear biologist Steven] Amstrup point blank whether the polar bears would go extinct, he was quick to demur. The consensus was that for a long time there would be ice somewhere in the high Arctic. And where there is ice, there will be bears. Not very many bears, but not complete extinction either. "There are likely to be small pockets of bears," Amstrup said, in "places where walrus are going to increasingly haul out on land as the sea ice retreats. … Some polar bears will figure that out. So there may be some small pockets of bears that figure out some kind of an equilibrium where they can survive the ice-free period. But it’s not very consistent with what we know about polar bears to suggest that whole populations of bears … are likely to survive in the terrestrial environment.”

Unger ventures as to why the bears' vulnerability resonates – "they're a lot like us":

They’re smart and tough and they nurture their young. They’re cute and cuddly and unpredictably ferocious. They’re the top of the food chain, they’re without natural predators. This isn’t some red-legged frog, warty and swamp-dwelling, that faces annihilation. This is a master predator, a carnivore, with hands and feet and hair. This bear is the boss. So when we think about polar bears going extinct, it’s not their absence that worries us; it’s our own. And because it’s our fault—and because it may be our future—the bears have become the most important animals on earth. After ourselves, of course.