A report yesterday of polar bears making a nuisance of themselves in Black Tickle, southern Labrador is the inspiration for this post. Those bears are part of the Davis Strait subpopulation (discussed previously here and here). Black Tickle is marked on the map below.
Arctic sea ice is tracking just at the edge of two standard deviations for this time of year but while extent is low in the Barents Sea, it is way up around the east coast of Canada.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged above-normal, Black Tickle, Davis Strait, Great Lakes, Labrador, Newfoundland, nuisance bears, polar bear problems, polar bears, sea ice extent
Here is the February 2014 follow-up to my post on the July 2013 track map for female polar bears being followed by satellite in the Beaufort Sea by the US Geological Survey (USGS) – Ten out of ten polar bears being tracked this summer in the Beaufort Sea are on the ice.
See that post for methods and other background on this topic, and some track maps from 2012 (also available at the USGS website here).
The USGS track map February 2014 is copied below (Fig. 1).
The five bears that were being tracked in January are still present — down 50% from the ten bears collared in July.
This is a guest post by Kelsey Eliasson, who blogs at Polarbearalley, with his thoughts on the issue of the invasive research involved in polar bear mark-recapture studies around Churchill, Manitoba — which, as you’ll see, is a far different situation than I described for Nunavut (previous posts here, here, and here on this topic. Map below to get you oriented).
Kelsey is a writer, artist and polar bear guide who has spent 14 bear seasons watching the polar bears of Churchill. For five years, he ran Churchill’s monthly newspaper published occasionally, the Hudson Bay Post. Currently, he divides his year between the Yukon, Churchill and, occasionally, Riverton, home of Manitoba’s largest moose statue.
Churchill lies in the Western Hudson Bay (WHB) polar bear subpopulation, governed by the Province of Manitoba, while the community of Arviat, also in the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation, is overseen by the Government of Nunavut – different governments, different rules – as Kelsey points out below.
Invasive Research is Alive and Well in Canada, by Kelsey Eliasson
The recent post about Foxe Basin was of particular interest to me, as I have been following the growing gap between the north and science for some time now. The stance taken by the Inuit is viewed as an inspiration by the guides over here in Churchill. For many years, we have tried to voice our deep concerns over the levels of handling and drugging that our bears (the Western Hudson Bay population) are subjected to on an annual basis.
This time last year, I tried to raise the topic for discussion after Andrew Derocher announced that ‘everything was on the table’ including feeding bears. At that time, the top polar bear researchers had sat down to discuss options for saving bears – except reducing handling and research – i.e. chasing bears down by helicopter and then shooting them with tranquilizers. Continue reading
Posted in Guest post, Population
Tagged Churchill, Derocher, failed collars, helicopters, invasive research, Kelsey Eliasson, Manitoba, mark-recapture, Nunavut, objections to mark-recapture, polar bear, PolarBearAlley, satellite collars, Stirling, Telazol, tranquilizer drugs, western hudson bay
As I outlined earlier this week, Canadian Inuit objected so strenuously to routine mark-recapture methods used by polar bear biologists during the early days of a Foxe Basin population study in 2008 that the work was abandoned and an aerial survey done instead.
In this post, I’ll examine how the polar bear biologists involved reacted to that crisis, which they called a “control of research” issue.
In a published version of a conference paper, co-authored by two of the original investigators of the Foxe Basin mark-recapture study, Lily Peacock and Andrew Derocher (Peacock et al. 2011:374), had this to say:
“Control of research is a developing source of conflict. In recent years, some permits for management-oriented research on polar bears were denied by the Government of Nunavut, local hunting and trapping organizations in the Northwest Territories, and by Makivik Corporation in Quebec. Furthermore, in a 2009 resolution, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami opposed the capture of polar bears throughout Canada (available by request from http://www.itk.ca), even though the application of physical marks is one of the most effective methods of population estimation. Co-management is particularly difficult in Nunavut because of the large number of subpopulations (12), which makes it difficult to fund and conduct research.” [my bold]
They raised an interesting point – since the Government of Nunavut has the power to insist biologists do more than reiterate that their way of counting bears is the only acceptable way, and because the government can deny permits to projects that don’t measure up, it can lock out traditional polar bear research for virtually all of Canada (the vast majority of Canada’s 13 subpopulations are in Nunavut, see Fig. 1), especially since aboriginal organizations in the Northwest Territories and Quebec have followed Nunavut’s lead.
Figure 1. Territory covered by the Government of Nunavut (top, Wikipedia) and the 13 polar bear subpopulations in Canada (bottom, Environment Canada).
That means if polar bear researchers can’t find a way to make their research mesh with Inuit concerns, they’ll be out of work in Canada. Let’s take a look at their approach and see how well it worked for them — explaining in part the new prominence of aerial surveys for population assessments. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged aerial survey, Derocher, disrespectful, Government of Nunavut, handling, Inuit, mark-recapture, Peacock, polar bear, population assessments, population surveys
This follow-up to my last post has some new information about drug residues remaining in polar bear meat after the animals have been tranquilized.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged 45 day wait, Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, Cattet, CBC, consume polar bear meat, drug residues in polar bear meat, Government of Nunavut, Health Canada, hunters, Inuit, polar bear, Telazol, Zoletil
While researching the population status of Foxe Basin polar bears I came across an issue that seems to have garnered relatively little attention outside the polar bear community – Inuit objections to the handling of polar bears during mark-recapture surveys and the effect of this on polar bear research in Canada.
Foxe Basin is a large polar bear subpopulation region that encompasses the northern portion Hudson Bay into the area west of Baffin Island, see map below (courtesy IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group).
Mark-recapture research methods routinely used by polar bear biologists became especially contentious in Foxe Basin during a population study initiated in 2007/2008, with Inuit residents voicing objections and biologists defending its practice. The following year, the mark-recapture effort was halted and an aerial survey took its place.
The aerial survey has been completed and a report on it was released in 2012 (Stapleton et al. 2012; see previous post for results) but we’ve heard very little about what happened to that mark-recapture study and why the Government of Nunavut pulled the plug on it. I plan to change that with the next couple of posts.
I’m not claiming to understand the nuances of the story because I’m only going by available documents. However, I think it’s important to shine some light on this issue since it has clearly changed the shape of polar bear research in Canada.
Posted in Life History, Population
Tagged aerial survey, Atkinson, Canada, Derocher, field work, Foxe Basin, Inuit, mark-recapture, non-invasive research, Nunavut, objections to mark-recapture, Peacock, polar bear handling, polar bear research, research methods, Stapleton, tainted meat, tranquilizer drugs, Zoletil
As I pointed out on Valentine’s Day, the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) has released a revised population estimate for polar bears of 18,349 (range 13,071-24,238), based on a new status table posted February 14, 2014.
In that February 14th post, I also pointed out that as for the 2005 and 2009/2010 status tables, the PBSG did not add up the columns and give the totals — you had to do that yourself, which is how I got the numbers above (last week, I made a couple of graphs that show changes over time in their status table estimates). Oddly enough, there is now no mention of an official global polar bear estimate anywhere on the PBSG website.
In addition — and the point of this post — is that to see the details of how and why the PBSG biologists arrived at the population estimates and the status assessments they present (with references), you have to click on the hyperlinked title of each separate subpopulation in the table. While they made a one-page black and white summary of the online colour table available as a pdf (linked at the bottom of the page), they did not make the assessment details from the status table available in pdf format.
So I did it myself, via copy/paste into a Word document that I converted to a searchable pdf, without editorial comment except that I included the totals given above and noted a few glaringly obvious omissions (see below). It took me all of 30 minutes.
I offer it here for more effective scrutiny, convenient reference and archival purposes — because the way it stands now, the online table could disappear tomorrow without any hard-copy evidence of the information hyperlinked within it.
UPDATE February 26, 2014 I checked the PBSG website this morning and the omissions I noted below that were present a few days ago have been fixed. I did not receive a reply to my email notification of the issue. An updated pdf is now available.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged 2013 PBSG status pdf, conservation status, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, PBSG, PBSG status table, polar bear, polar bear numbers, polar bear population, Polar Bear Specialist Group, status assessement, status of polar bears at 2013, status table