Canada is home to two-thirds of the world's polar bears (Photo: Getty Images)
As the bears spend more time on land with less fat, they grow hungry and can venture into town in search of food. Where the first encounters with polar bears used to be late August, Hedman said polar bears are now coming into contact with people as early as July 1. "What's the tipping point?" he said. "What's the threshold that they can go without food? When they're on land, they're not eating. "How long can they sustain themselves without getting onto that sea ice platform to hunt seals again?" Andrew Derocher, one of the country's leading polar bear experts based at the University of Alberta, said the population is in "grave condition." The population has stabilized around 800 bears but few cubs are surviving past the first year, he said.
"How long can they sustain themselves without getting onto that sea ice platform to hunt seals again?"
A polar bear standing on melting sea ice in Hudson Bay on summer evening. (Photo: Getty Images)As they spend more time on land without food, Derocher said they could venture more and more into populated areas. "Hungry bears are always going to be a problem," he said. "All projections are that they will increase their on-land time." When the ice does finally form on Hudson Bay, Derocher said it's freezing up further afield so polar bears often have no choice but to go through populated areas to get on it. "It's a response to changing ice conditions," Derocher said. Peter Ewins, a senior officer with the World Wildlife Fund, compared the increase in polar bear encounters with raccoons in larger cities. Those who learn to break into homes and garbage cans are the hungry ones bent on survival, he said. "The portion of your total (polar bear) population that's nutritionally stressed is just going to go up the less access they have to fat-rich seals," Ewins said. "Until we solve the climate change thing, this isn't really going to be a good situation. It's just going to get tougher."
Also On HuffPost: