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‘Ice Bear’ exhibit on display at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum's 'Ice Bear' exhibit showcases a local photographer's images of polar bears and highlights the impact climate change has had on the vulnerable species.

"I felt I might have been running out of time. So that was one of the reasons why I picked polar bears," said featured photographer Ralph Clevenger.

Clevenger captured a variety of images of polar bears during his eight-day trip to Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. The town of Churchill is considered the polar bear capital of the world because thousands of polar bears migrate there during the summer months.

Clevenger explains climate change has threatened this vulnerable species because the sea water in Hudson Bay has started to melt earlier and form later in the year leaving the bears less time to hunt and feed on the ice. Clevenger said the polar bears will try to enter the town of Churchill to find food while the ice is melted.

"I mean, they're looking for food. They will eat anything they can find. It's just not enough food to sustain them. So there there is actually a polar bear jail."

The town of Churchill used to feed the polar bears in the "jail" but has stopped in recent years according to Clevenger.

"So if a polar bear comes into towns and they catch them, they'll put them in the jail and they used to feed them in the jail. Polar bears figured that out pretty quick," said Clevenger.

The population of polar bears near Hudson Bay has significantly decreased over the last few decades according to the research group Polar Bear International.

The group's research shows that in 1987, the population was estimated to be 1,200, but by 2004 that had fallen to 935. The most recent survey published in 2022 estimated the population to be 618.

"Polar bears are going to be one of the consequences of this warming. Regardless of what we do right now, there will be some polar bear populations that just won't be able to survive the changes," said Clevenger.

Clevenger will have a presentation on his photographs on Thursday, April 18th at the Maritime Museum

The exhibit will be on display until May 31, 2024.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
canada
Churchill
climate change
environment
photographs
polar bears
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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