Polar Bears Don’t Live in Antarctica: But Could They?

Patrick Aresenault, Contributor

The recent climate change issues coming to light and the common misconception that polar bears live in Antarctica got people thinking. Even though polar bears only live in the North Hemisphere, would they have a chance if they lived in Antarctica? Some think they must be able to live anywhere there is snow. Anya Dimelow, founder and editor of Eco Kids Planet says: “It’s not snow, but sea ice and seals that are important for the polar bears.”

With all the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, polar bears are suffering. A large amount of the sea ice near the Arctic Circle is melting and now returning. The sea ice is where polar bears hunt. Unlike other bear species, polar bears are almost exclusively meat eaters as there aren’t many plants where they live. Even though polar bears can swim, without the sea ice they can’t go too far to hunt for seals and walruses. Usually, polar bears wait for the seals to poke their heads out of the sea ice and then attack their prey. 

Polar bears are now on the brink of extinction because of habitat loss. Would it be possible for them to live in Antarctica and if so, why don’t they already? The short answer to that question would be yes however, it is not the best idea. The sea ice amount in Antarctica is shrinking, just no where near the pace it is in the North so if scientists relocated all the polar bears what would happen?

Firstly, the climate in Antarctica is more than appropriate for polar bears and there is more than enough food for them; however, after relocating all the polar bears, we would be far from out of the woods. Polar bears would dominante the Antarctic landscape as the icy southern continent lacks large predators similar to the polar bear. Anya Dimelow also states that “Animals of the Antarctica, particularly penguins, could become easy prey for polar bears. Penguins do not expect any danger on the land and use it as their safe breeding ground.”

 Once Polar Bears enter the ecosystem, penguins and seals would have to adapt to a more aquatic lifestyle or have to be comfortable roaming around on land. When scientists first started going to Antarctica they noted how curious penguins were which evidently made them an easy source of food for shipwrecked explorers. Either way, with no competition the polar bear would become an invasive species like an iguana in Florida.

Antarctica is also not owned by any one nation. This would create a ginormous barrier for any group wanting to relocate the polar bears as the fifty-four countries involved in Antarctica would need to unanimously support the project.

The issue of polar bear decline cannot simply be changed by relocation.. Antarctica would only be a temporary solution to the problem as climate change affects the entire planet. It may be a poor conclusion, but reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is most likely the best way to save the polar bear population.