ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska polar bears are losing their fur and U.S. Geological Survey scientists don’t know why.
In the past two weeks, nine of 33 bears checked by scientists in the southern Beaufort Sea region near Barrow were found to have alopecia — loss of fur — and skin lesions, said Tony DeGange, chief of the biology office at the USGS Science Center in Anchorage.
Three of four bears inspected Thursday near Kaktovik showed the symptoms as well.
Scientists have been collecting blood and tissue samples from the afflicted bears, but they do not know the cause or the significance of the outbreak, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
“Our data set suggests that this is unusual but not unprecedented,” DeGange said. Ten of 48 bears checked by the team in 1998-99 had a similar condition, he said.