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Surprising Science

New Polar Bear Sanctuary Discovered

Approximately 20 bears are living on an iceberg off the Canadian coast, challenging assumptions about where the animals normally spend their summers.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of filmmakers on location has discovered a group of about 20 polar bears living on Peterman, a large tabular (steep sides, flat top) iceberg in Baffin Bay between Canada’s Baffin Island and Greenland. The team was there filming footage for the joint BBC/Discovery Channel documentary “Operation Iceberg,” described as “a five-week mission…to document the life-cycle of Arctic icebergs from their birth to death.” It’s the first time a group of bears this size has been seen residing on an iceberg at this time of year, which challenges common wisdom regarding where they normally go to spend their summers. 

What’s the Big Idea?

In this part of the world, it was believed that the bears moved to dry land, specifically Baffin Island, as the sea ice melted. However, more tabular icebergs have been coming into the bay after they slide off the large Greenland ice sheet. One possible advantage of staying on these icebergs is that they help isolate the bears from hunters. BBC presenter Chris Packham said, “What’s there for them is security, and I think they are taking advantage of that. So I think they are living on this iceberg to stay safe, and just wait for the sea ice to come back in.”

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