Tag Archives: Derocher

Public misled about W Hudson Bay bears since November 2013

Leading polar bear biologists knew by November 2013 that mark-recapture studies showed the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation had not changed appreciably since 2004 but none said so. This includes Steven Amstrup and Ian Stirling at Polar Bears International, Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta), and Nick Lunn (Canadian Wildlife Service), all of whom are (or have been) extensively involved in Western Hudson Bay polar bear research and have made recent statements to the media on this topic.

Polar_Bear_2004-11-15_Wapusk Nat Park_Wikipedia

More details have emerged about the status of Western Hudson Bay (WHB) polar bears (reported a few days ago here), reported this morning in NunatsiaqOnline, excerpts below.

The story reveals that there are two Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment Canada) reports containing population estimates of Western Hudson Bay polar bears – one produced in 2011 and another in November 2013 (reversing the 2011 conclusion) – that have not been made public.

[In contrast, Nunavut Government reports on their 2011 population estimate, based on aerial surveys, were made public in both draft and final report formats (and have since been peer-reviewed and published)]

The conclusion of the 2013 report, quoted in this mornings article, suggests that some of our most vocal polar bear specialists have been misleading the public about the status of the Western Hudson Bay population for the last year.
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Winnipeg zoo unashamedly frightens children about polar bear extinction, for a price

The Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg is selling Polar Bears International-style1 “save our sea ice” global warming propaganda to children, which it calls “messaging.”

“The centre is deliberately targeting children, fully aware that there is a magical connection between the cuddly, entertaining orphan cubs and young visitors.”

Orphaned cubs from Churchill now on display in Winnipeg

Orphaned cubs from Churchill now on display in Winnipeg

That’s the money quote, in more ways than one, from an article at The Globe and Mail earlier this week (23 November 2014), “Innovative Winnipeg zoo experiment shares the plight of polar bears” in which the author promotes the new “Journey to Churchill” exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg as “an ambitious experiment.”
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S Beaufort polar bears largely recovered from known 2004-2006 decline, says new study

A bit more good news about polar bear populations, this time from an abundance study in the Southern Beaufort Sea. A paper released yesterday showed a 25-50% decline in population size took place between 2004 and 2006 (larger than previously calculated). However, by 2010 the population had rebounded substantially (although not to previous levels).

All the media headlines (e.g. The Guardian) have followed the press release lead and focused on the extent of the decline. However, it’s the recovery portion of the study that’s the real news, as it’s based on new data. Such a recovery is similar to one documented in the late 1970s after a significant decline occurred in 1974-1976 that was caused by thick spring ice conditions.

Polar bear with collar and tag_USGS_labeled

The title of the new paper by Jeffery Bromaghin and a string of polar bear biologists and modeling specialists (including all the big guns: Stirling, Derocher, Regehr, and Amstrup) is “Polar bear population dynamics in the southern Beaufort Sea during a period of sea ice decline.” However, the study did not find any correlation of population decline with ice conditions. They did not find any correlation with ice conditions because they did not include spring ice thickness in their models – they only considered summer ice conditions.

I find this very odd, since previous instances of this phenomenon, which have occurred every 10 years or so since the 1960s, have all been associated with thick spring ice conditions (the 1974-76 and 2004-2006 events were the worst). [Another incident may have occurred this spring (April 2014) but has not been confirmed].

Whoever wrote the press release for this paper tried hard to suggest the cause of the 2004-2006 event might have been “thin” winter ice caused by global warming that was later deformed into thick spring ice, an absurd excuse that has been tried before (discussed here). If so, what caused the 1974-1976 event?

It seems rather unscientific as well as implausible to even try to blame this recent phenomenon on global warming. However, neither the authors of the paper or the press release writers seemed to want to admit that 2-3 years of thick ice development in the Southern Beaufort could have been the cause of the population decline in 2004 (as for all of the previous events). No, that wouldn’t do, not in the age of global warming.

So, we are left with this equally absurd conclusion from the author:

The low survival may have been caused by a combination of factors that could be difficult to unravel,” said Bromaghin, “and why survival improved at the end of the study is unknown.

I’ve summarized the paper to the best of my understanding (there was a lot of model-speak to wade through), leaving out the prophesies of extinction, which in my opinion don’t add anything.

UPDATE November 19, 2014: Don’t miss my follow-up post, with some startling new information, Polar bear researchers knew S. Beaufort population continued to increase up to 2012
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Hudson Bay freeze-up update – most polar bears on the ice

Latest sea ice maps and charts from the Canadian Ice Service show significant ice building quickly along the west coast of Hudson Bay, enough to allow polar bears out to hunt.

Kelsey Eliasson reported from Churchill earlier today that most of the polar bears have moved onto the ice.

Sea ice extent Canada 2014 Nov 17 CIS

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A more optimistic view of Churchill polar bears and Hudson Bay freeze-up

Finally, an unbiased first-hand report about Churchill polar bears and freeze-up on Hudson Bay.

Over the last few weeks, biologists Andrew Derocher and Steve Amstrup have been repeating their tired old tales of doom and gloom about the polar bears around Churchill and I’ve done my best to refute the worst of their nonsense.

Figure 1. Polar bear female with cub, 2009, Churchill, Western Hudson Bay. Wikipedia.

Figure 1. Polar bear female with cub, 2009, Churchill, Western Hudson Bay. Wikipedia.

To that effort we can now add this report from PolarBearAlley, where Kelsey Eliasson has posted a good-news story about the bears of Cape Churchill and the progress of freeze-up, including sightings of a number of mothers with cubs.
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BBC provides a forum for desperate biologists: “Will polar bears become extinct?”

Yesterday, the BBC published a story that gave the two most alarmist polar bear researchers on the planet a forum to market their ‘polar bears are doomed’ message. This time the desperation shows: watch how these biologists move the goal-posts, make claims so misleading they border on lies, and pretend they don’t have big, big trouble with their predictive models.

Amstrup_only solution_with 2 cubs_Oct 8 2014

Amstrup photo that accompanied an interview last month.

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Polar bear specialist says there are 800 polar bears in W Hudson Bay, gov’t says ~1,000-1,500

Activist polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta) may have gone too far this time. In an interview with Yahoo News, Derocher is quoted as saying:

“When I first started here about 30 years ago the population was about 1,200 bears and now we’re down to about 800,” team member Andrew Derocher, a biology professor at the University of Alberta, said in a phone interview from the tundra outside Churchill.”  [my bold]

Figure 4. Environment Canada's "Map 3: 2014 Canadian Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Map," original here.

Environment Canada’s “Map 3: 2014 Canadian Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Map,” original here. Click to enlarge.

However, the Polar Bear Technical Committee of Environment Canada says differently: it estimates there are ~1000-1,500 bears in Western Hudson Bay (WH) and that the population is probably stable, as their new status map (dated June 2014, copied above) shows. A recent (2014) peer-reviewed paper by Stapleton and colleagues (discussed here) provides the data for that estimate.
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