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Last Breath
 10 x 22

The largest land carnivore in North America, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a formidable animal to behold. The current climate crisis now poses a very real threat to this incredible species. Temperatures in the arctic are rising at twice the rate as the rest of the world putting the entire arctic ecosystem in jeopardy. 

Under normal conditions when annual sea ice melts, polar bears travel inland to scavenge in the summer. Due to global warming, however, ice is retreating earlier and forming later, preventing bears from being able to feed at length at sea on their staple diet of seals. Many bears are also becoming trapped on ice floes, succumbing to starvation. In addition, the inability to feast on seals due to retreating ice will prevent females from reproducing. Exhibiting a phenomenon called “delayed implantation”,her fertilized egg will not implant in the uterus unless she nearly doubles her weight and is in prime body condition to undergo the ordeal of fasting through the denning season. 

In November 2011 polar bears were listed as a species of special concern in Canada. Despite the formal nod to their significance, effects of the current climate crisis will continue to threaten this keystone species. Estimates indicate we may witness the extinction of the polar bear in our lifetime. Scientists predict that the effects of climate change can be reversed, but only if we act immediately.

There are many ways to portray polar bears in artworks – strong and powerful or playful and engaging. In this piece I wanted a sense of stillness and vulnerability. Just emerged from the icy water, the bear exhales, its breath hanging for a moment in the air, back lit by the arctic sun. Will it take its last breath this season, or next?