ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Geological Survey scientists say some Alaska polar bears are losing their fur, but they're not sure why.
USGS chief biologists Tony DeGange says nine of 33 bears checked by scientists in the past two weeks were found to have alopecia — loss of fur — and skin lesions in the southern Beaufort Sea region near Barrow.
Three of four bears inspected Thursday near Kaktovik showed the symptoms as well.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the scientists have been collecting blood and tissue samples from the afflicted bears, but they don't know the cause or the significance of the outbreak.
DeGange says the rash of cases is unusual but not unprecedented. He says 10 of 48 bears checked by the team in 1998 and 1999 had a similar condition, but no cause was found.