Category Archives: Uncategorized

Churchill has polar bears, Victoria has cougars

cougar (aka puma/mountain lion) was captured in downtown Victoria yesterday (my home town), with all the drama given a polar bear attack. No polar bear alert program here, just cougar tracking hounds on standby and officers with guns and tranquilizer darts.

The Globe and Mail has video here.

Victoria cougar location Oct 5 2015

Details and quotes below. CBC story was the only one to include a map, which I have put into polar bear perspective.
Continue reading

Hudson Bay breakup later than average, longer hunting season for polar bears

Due to the atypical pattern of sea ice melt on Hudson Bay this year, 2015 will definitely be a later than average breakup year – perhaps not as late as 1992 but maybe almost as late as 2009. Easing into the first days of Arctic summer, there is still a lot of polar bear habitat left on Hudson Bay, especially in the east.

Hudson Bay breakup 2015 vs 2009 at 29 June_MASIE

Although official breakup in 2009 was only a little later than usual (9 July), bears came ashore about the same time (after mid-August) as they did in 1992, when breakup was very late (30 July). With the pattern this year being so unusual (and the melt so slow over the last few weeks), who knows how late it could be before the last bears leave the ice in 2015?

There is definitely more sea ice this year on the bay than there was last year, when breakup was about average for the last 24 years.

UPDATE 2 July 2015: CIS weekly ice coverage graphs added to the end of this post. Hudson Bay ice highest since 2009 and Davis Strait highest since 1994! Have a look.
Continue reading

On being a polar bear expert, among other things

As an interdisciplinary scientist, my recent work reviewing and summarizing polar bear science fits cohesively into my career. In this essay, my 300th blog post, I explain in some detail why ‘polar bear expert’ describes me just as well as ‘dog evolution expert.’ In fact, I have world-renowned expertise in other specialties as well, which will amaze and confuse those who think that a scientist can only ever be knowledgeable about one topic in their lifetime.

Polar bears Stanley park zoo_Crockford 1970s_web

My photo of the polar bears at the Stanley Park Zoo, 1970s.

Continue reading

Polar bear penises not breaking due to PCBs – new paper full of “coulds” and “maybes”

This is a short discussion about research on polar bear penis bones, regarding a new paper that sent several of the Internet’s most juvenile science headline writers off the deep end.1

Marine mammal penis bones_not labeled_PolarBearScience_2015_sm

Short quiz first. Above are the penis bones (each called a baculum, plural bacula) of three marine mammals – one is from a bearded seal, one from a polar bear and another from a Steller sea lion. Which one do you think is the polar bear? Answer below.
Continue reading

Western Hudson Bay polar bears will still be around in 20 years

This is not a bet or prophesy based on models, it’s my conviction as an experienced zoologist, based on history demonstrating the resilience of the species.


I’m so sure about Western Hudson Bay polar bears that I’ve started a spare-change jar marked “Send Nico to Churchill.” Nico is my new grandson, just two months old now. This will be our first Christmas with a baby in a long time.


Nico’s special savings account will assure that in 20 years (given wise investments), he’ll be able to see Churchill polar bears in their own element.

Warmest wishes to all my readers and thanks for your support, it is much appreciated.


Polar bear biologists miss the mark in new study on invasive mark-recapture effects

Apparently, some biologists think that outputs from complex computer models will convince native Arctic residents that invasive mark-recapture work has no long-term effect on the health and well-being of polar bears.

 Photo by Jake Steven Arnatsiaq. Original here.

Photo by Jake Steven Arnatsiaq. Original here.

Continue reading

Lake-effect snow in NY just like Victoria, B.C. blizzards of 1996 & 1916

The Victoria blizzard of 1996 (Dec. 28-29) dropped 124 centimetres (48.8 inches) of snow. Not too far off some recent accumulations around Buffalo and other western New York State communities (great photos here). Just wacky weather (and nothing to do with polar bears) but memorable if you’ve lived through it and the stories out of NY have twigged my memories.

We get a maritime version of “lake-effect” snow here in Victoria (which is on Vancouver Island), where cold air moves offshore from the Interior of the province, travels over the relatively warm Strait of Georgia (see map below) and dumps snow on south island communities. Victoria is renowned for mild winters but when these cold conditions all line up just right, Victoria might as well be Buffalo.

Snow at "Bob's" front door.  A Flickr photo, hope you don't mind, Bob!

Snow at the front door, original here, taken 28 December 1996 in Victoria, B.C.

I didn’t have a camera then, which is a pity, but others did. Someone downtown (where accumulations were somewhat less than 48 inches) made a video, copied below. A diversion from polar bear shenanigans that you might find of interest.
Continue reading