Bearded Seal, © Tui De Roy / Minden Pictures

 
Named for their white whiskers—which actually look more like mustaches than beards—these seals appear almost dashing. Unfortunately, looking dapper isn’t keeping them out of danger.

Bearded seals depend on seasonally ice-covered waters. Perching on ice helps these 550-pound marine mammals find hunting spots, and ice packs protect their pups from hungry polar bears. 

But 2012 saw record ice melts in the Arctic Ocean. Some of Greenland’s ice shrunk in only a matter of days in August, shattering previous records.

And it’s expected to get worse. Current trends suggest that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by the middle or end of this century. If the ice disappears so will the seals. 

And bearded seals aren’t the only ones who depend on ice for survival. Other arctic animals that thrive in a cold climate include walruses and polar bears. To help them, Congress needs to stop stalling and pass a comprehensive climate change bill. Unless we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we spew into the atmosphere, the future survival of all the animals that rely on these icy waters remains dicey.   

 —Julia Collins

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