Winner of the Wildlife Society’s 2013 Publications Award for Outstanding Book
No animal is more symbolic of the Arctic than the polar bear.
In the short space of 150,000 years, it has evolved from a grizzly bear into the most specialized predator of the arctic sea ice. Through behavioural, morphological, and physiological changes in a remarkably short period of time, the polar bear has become totally adapted to living comfortably in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Yet, the very survival of this unique mammal is now threatened by global climate warming.
Dr. Ian Stirling, the best known polar bear scientist in the world, compresses the major new discoveries of the last 40 years of research on this iconic Arctic mammal into a major new, easily readable, and scientifically comprehensive book about the ecology and natural history of polar bears. In an accessible non-technical style, he explains how polar bears evolved, how researchers study them, aspects of their behaviour, how they prey and live on various marine mammals for their very survival, how the seals and bears have evolved in response to each other, and how, specifically, they have come to threatened by climate warming. In a separate chapter, he explains why the polar bears in Hudson Bay have become so important to our understanding of the species, how Churchill became "The Polar Bear Capital of the World".
Despite the deep concerns about climate warming, there is hope. Ecotourism in several areas, such as Svalbard, Hudson Bay, and the Canadian High Arctic is helping to develop a world-wide constituency of people who care about polar bears and the Arctic. The influence of this constituency is vitally important because there is still time for the world to reduce the rate of climate warming, but only if we make significant reductions in greenhouse gases soon.
Maps, tables and graphs throughout the book illustrate the distribution of polar bears, where they originated, the status of populations, critical differences in ice conditions and how they impact the survival different populations of bears, and many other technical aspects made simple. The details of their ecology, behaviour, hunting, and habitat us, described in detail in the text are illustrated with the most diverse and extensive collection of spectacular photographs of polar bears ever assembled in a single book.
Some of the finest photos from several of the world's most experienced polar bear photographers, including Norbert Rosing, Mats Forsberg, Stefan Lundgren, Sue Flood, Doug Allen, Daniel Cox, Per Michelsen, David Shaw, Philip Dalton, and Jenny Ross, combine with the text make this book an incomparable treasure of understanding of this amazing mammal.
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"With this book - the best ever to be written about polar bears - we are blessed with the opportunity to benefit from Ian Stirling's extensive knowledge and life-long experience with this magnificent animal.
"He shows us that the far North is not a barren and hostile environment, but unique and beautiful. The new knowledge presented in this book is crucial for conservation and management of Arctic nature and its polar bears.
"Read Ian Stirling's book, admire the pictures and enjoy."
-- Dr. Thor S. Larsen. Founding member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and former Head of Biology Department and Director of Research at the Norwegian Polar Institute
"For over thirty years now, whenever there is debate over polar bears, I have turned to Ian Stirling not just for definitive facts and figures, but for genuine wisdom and perspective. To work with Ian in the field is to experience a man entirely at home in the Arctic environment, not unlike the bears he knows so well".
-- Monte Hummel, President Emeritus, WWF-Canada.
"Ian Stirling's groundbreaking studies of polar bears laid much of the foundation for both current research on the species and our present day understanding of them. No one can now look at these highly intelligent, threatened creatures without worrying about a world that could cause their possible extinction—and wondering how we have allowed it to come to this point. We must take action. As this book clearly illustrates, their loss would be our loss as well."
-- Robert Buchanan, President/CEO, Polar Bears International
As a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta, Dr. Ian Stirling has studied the behaviour, population, ecology, and predator-prey relationships of polar bears for 40 years, longer than anyone else in the world. His research in western Hudson Bay provided the first clear demonstration of climate change on resident polar bears there. He is a member of national and international committees on polar bears and marine mammals, and has authored or co-authored over 200 scientific articles and three books. He has won several awards, including the Northern Science Award, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.