Breaking: Pacific walrus is not threatened with extinction says US Fish & Wildlife

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they cannot determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future,” which the agency defines as the year 2060.”

(CBC, 4 October 2017).

Walrus female Point Lay Alaska_Ryan Kingsbery USGS

“The agency said in 2011 that walruses deserve the additional protection of being declared threatened, but delayed a listing because other species were a higher priority.

The agency revised the decision based on new information, said Patrick Lemons, the agency’s marine mammals management chief.

“Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviours than previously thought,” Lemons said. Their ability to rest on shorelines before swimming to foraging areas makes the threat of less sea ice uncertain, he added.”

UPDATES below:

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Fat healthy polar bear update: hundreds of not-starving bears attracted to dead whale

Are the hundreds of polar bears spending the summer on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea starving and desperate for any scrap of food? Hardly! Photos taken by Russian tourists on a cruise ship (19 September 2017) show a huge number of already-fat, healthy bears converging on a dead bowhead whale washed up on a beach. Most of these bears would have been without food since at least early August, when the last sea ice disappeared around the island, and will return to the ice by November.

Wrangel Island bears on whale_29 Sept 2017 SUN

This is what The Sun reported (29 September), based on a Siberian Times story (my bold):

The extraordinary sight was witnessed by tourists on an Arctic cruise aboard the Finnish-built MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

A source at Wrangel Island Nature Reserve said: “There were at least 230 polar bears, including single males, single females, mothers with cubs and even two mothers with four cubs each.”

Experts called the sight of so many polar bears together “unique”.

The huge number could in fact amount to as much one per cent of the entire world’s population of the creatures.

Tourists initially thought the bears were a flock of sheep after viewing them from a distance, The Siberian Times reports.

But as the boat drew closer, the lucky holidaymakers realised what they were witnessing.

Fat cubs of the year are seen in the photo below, from the Siberian Times story:

Wrangel Island bears on whale_29 Sept 2017 Siberian TimesA self-proclaimed science-based news site (LiveScience, 29 September) that picked up the story of this unique event had the temerity to suggest the bears might have been “hungrier than usual” due to global warming.

It deliberately conflates predictions of future starving bears due to low sea ice levels with this observation of many obviously not-starving bears checking out an attractive food source (my bold):

“It’s unclear, however, whether climate change had made these particular bears hungrier than usual. The frequency of starving polar bears is expected to increase as the climate warms and sea ice declines — not just because of climate change directly, but because ice loss is taking away seals, their main food source, Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying polar bears, told Live Science in 2015.”

Except that there is no evidence that ice loss is “taking seals away” — certainly not in the Chukchi Sea. Chukchi Sea seals have been found to be doing better with less ice than they were when there was more ice in the 1980s.

More below, including the location of Wrangel Island and sea ice maps.

UPDATE 2 October 2017: Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea has been lower this summer than over the last few years but the polar bears spending the ice-free season on Wrangel Island are still in good to excellent condition:

r02_Chukchi_Sea_ts_4km at 2017 Oct 1

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Breaking: 2016 W. Hudson Bay polar bear survey shows the population is still stable

A just-released report on the most recent (2016) survey shows Western Hudson Bay polar bear numbers were still stable despite predictions that this subpopulation would be wiped out completely (reduced to zero) due to low Arctic sea ice.

Churchill_Polar_Bear_2004-11-15 Wikipedia

The authors of the report on the August 2016 aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation (Dyck et al. 2017) state clearly that the only trends they could find were that the number of adult males increased somewhat over 2011 estimates and the number of females either declined or remained stable. The overall population estimate was a bit lower (11% less) compared to the 2011 survey but the difference is not statistically significant. Therefore, the population status must be stable.

2011 estimate: 949 bears (using comparable data, range 618-1280), litter size 1.43

2016 estimate: 842 bears (using comparable data, range 562-1121), litter size 1.63

[cf. Foxe Basin [stable], from 2009-2010 survey (Stapleton et al. 2016) litter size was 1.54]

An 11% decline in WH numbers since 2011 is most definitely NOT the decline to ZERO (extirpation) we were told to expect with Arctic sea ice as low as it has been since 2007 (Crockford 2017, see list of annual minimum extents 2007-2017 here).

Note: The percentage decline from 2011 to 2016 for Western Hudson Bay polar bears is 11%, NOT 18% as claimed recently by Andrew Derocher on twitter: it is not appropriate to compare the official 2011 estimate of 1030 (Stapleton 2014) to the 2016 estimate of 842 because the methods used to generate the estimates were different (Dyck et al. 2017). The authors of the report state that the estimate for 2011 that’s comparable to 2016 is 949.

An 11% decline from 1030 would be 917 bears, a statistically insignificant decline that is also biologically insignificant and therefore, so slight as to indicate a stable population.

Predicted sea ice at 2050 and 2080 shown below (see Crockford 2017 for details):

Crockford 2017 sea ice graphic

Quotes, map, and table from the Dyck et al. 2017 report (pdf here) are copied below.

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Fabulous polar bear science book for kids now available in French and German

Announcing the French and German translations of my popular science book, Polar Bear Facts and Myths (suitable for children aged seven and up), are now available through Amazon worldwide in paperback. Please pass along to your friends, relatives, and colleagues in North America and abroad. The English version still available in paperback and ebook formats.

FRENCH

Crockford Ours Polaire_French front cover_web size_10 Sept 2017

Titre: Ours Polaire Faits et Mythes: Un résumé scientifique pour tous âges
L’autheur: Susan J. Crockford
Traduit par: Reynald Duberger
Date de publication: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976158362
Nombre de pages: 44
Le price: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping]  CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Acheter-le ici: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.ca [Canada, also in the French Immersion Store]; Amazon.fr [France]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.de [Germany]

On a fait croire aux enfants qu’il ne reste que quelques centaines d’ours polaires,  mais l’implacable message sur les ours polaires condamnés (par la faute de l’homme) est heureusement faux. Il est temps qu’on révèle la vérité aux jeunes.

Voici donc les bonnes nouvelles qu’on doit apprendre aux enfants: les ours polaires n’ont jamais été menacés d’extinction à cause d’un réchauffement global anthropique. Il y a effectivement davantage d’ours polaires qu’il y en avait il y a 50 ans, et la population globale est d’un taille respectable, en dépit du fait que la banquise d’été ait atteint des niveaux ayant dû, selon les prévisions, mener à la catastrophe depuis 2007.

Les ours polaires se sont adaptés admirablement bien à ces niveaux, et contre toute attente, leur nombre a augmenté et non pas diminué au cours des années.

L’ours polaire: Faits et Mythes est un livre scientifique inspirant sur la survie dans l’Arctique qui plaira aussi bien aux parents qu’aux enfants.

À propos de l’auteur: Susan Crockford est une zoologiste professionnelle. Depuis plus de 20 ans elle étudie l’écologie et l’évolution de l’ours polaire. Elle possède un PhD et maintient un blog sur le passé et le présent des ours polaires appelé http://www.polarbearscience.com.

Depuis longtemps, les lecteurs réclamaient un livre clair et simple sur la science de l’ours polaire s’adressant aux enfants comme aux adultes, offrant la même approche rationnelle que celle de ses publications scientifiques pour adultes. Susan leur livre enfin cet ouvrage.

Un livre d’accompagnement (en anglais) est aussi disponible (Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change) présentant des détails bien référencés sur les questions et enjeux récents concernant la conservation de l’ours polaire. Pour les amateurs de fiction, elle propose aussi un thriller sur les attaques d’ours polaires (EATEN: A Novel), également en anglais.

GERMAN

Crockford FM FRONT cover only_German 10 Sept 2017 web size

Der Titel: Eisbären Fakten und Mythen: Eine wissenschaftliche Zusammenfassung für alle Altersgruppen
Der Autor: Susan J. Crockford
Übersetzt von: Marie McMillan
Datum der Veröffentlichung: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976305748

Seitenzahl: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping] CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Kauf es hier: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.de [Germany]; Amazon. ca [Canada]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.fr [France]

Beschreibung auf Deutsch

Vielen Kindern weltweit wurde erzählt, dass es nur noch ein paar hundert Eisbären auf der ganzen Welt gibt. Zum Glück ist die Nachricht, dass der Polarbär dem Untergang geweiht sei (und dass das allein die Schuld der Menschen sei) falsch. Es wird Zeit, dass die Kinder dies erfahren.

Die gute Nachricht, die Kinder hören müssen, ist diese: Eisbären sind nicht vom Aussterben bedroht aufgrund des Klimawandels. Tatsächlich gibt es heute viel mehr Polarbären als vor 50 Jahren und die Population weltweit hat eine gesunde Größe. Und das obwohl das Meereseis seit 2007 ein Niveau erreicht hat, von dem es hieß, dass es katastrophale Folgen haben würde. Eisbären kommen ganz gut mit weniger Meereseis im Sommer klar; entgegen allen Erwartungen ist ihre Zahl über die Jahre gestiegen, sie sind nicht weniger geworden.

Eisbär Fakten und Mythen ist ein ermutigendes wissenschaftliches Buch über das Überleben in der Arktis, welches Kindern und Eltern gleichermaßen gefällt.

Über die Autorin: Susan Crockford ist eine professionelle Zoologin, die seit mehr als 20 Jahren Polarbär-Ökologie und Evolution studiert. Sie hat einen Doktortitel und schreibt einen Blog über die historische und gegenwärtige Situation der Polarbären: http://www.polarbearscience.com. Seit Jahren fragten Leser sie nach einem wissenschaftlichen Buch dass sich auch an Kinder richtet und in gleichsam rationaler und umfassender Perspektive gehalten ist wie ihre wissenschaftlichen Texte für Erwachsene. Dieses Buch ist Dr. Crockfords Antwort.

English version of above descriptions copied below:

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Problem polar bears in Churchill at this date show 2017 less than 2016 and 2015

Comparing Churchill problem bear statistics over a few years provides some critical perspective: this year, the bears are causing much fewer problems.

This 2nd week in September is no exception, being the 9th week ashore in all cases: 2017 (4-10 September, where I think “total number of polar bear occurrence reports to date” should be 64, not 53, see week 7 report here), 2016 (5-11 September), 2015 (7-13 September), where there were about 1/2 the number of bears in “jail” this year compared to the last two years (i. e., 6 vs. 11 and 12) and slightly more than 1/2 the number of occurrence reports in 2017 than in 2016 and 2015 (64 vs. 107 and 99):

2017 week 9 Sept 4-11 may be typo

2016-sept-5-11_week-9.jpg

2015 Sept 7-13_at Sept 14

 

 

Problem bear reports confirm Churchill polar bears are in excellent condition

Now that all bears are ashore for the season, the folks at the Polar Bear Alert program in Churchill note in their report for week 7 (21-27 August, 2017) that the bears ashore are in excellent condition (confirming reports on the first bears ashore in July):

Churchill PB reports_week 7_ Aug 21-27_2017_Aug 28

Rather marked contrast to the pessimistic spin on conditions from the field a few months ago:

[yes, a few bears fail to make it through the winter, especially young bears; but that has always been the case — it’s not a sign of human-caused global warming catastrophe]

Last week’s problem bear report also confirmed news from the Churchill Polar Bears website a few weeks ago that showed several images of very fat bears:

Churchill_PolarBears_FAT bear post_21 Aug 2017

See below for last year’s report for week 7 and this year’s report for week 8 (28 August-3 September). Western Hudson Bay polar bears that come ashore near Churchill, Manitoba are starting their third month on land this week, out of the five months or so they have spent ashore in recent years (about 3 weeks more than in the 1980s, no longer than they did in 2004 — conditions have not been getting worse).

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Video: Death of a Climate Icon, the polar bear’s demise as a useful poster child

Last week I asked: “What’s causing the death of the polar bear as a climate change icon?”

I was echoing the conclusion of a commentator at the Arctic Institute (22 August 2017) who lamented: “The polar bear is dead, long live the polar bear” and climate scientist Michael Mann, who told a lecture audience a few months ago that polar bears are no longer useful for generating “action” on climate change.

Crockford 2017_Slide 15 screencap

This is slide 15 from my presentation at ICCC-12 in Washington, D.C. in March 2017.

Now here’s the video. Watch “The Death of a Climate Icon” (31 August 2017):

The video was made possible with the assistance of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Kind of makes you wonder: is Al Gore’s recent climate change movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, tanking at the box office because he couldn’t include polar bears as an example of the effects of human-caused global warming as he did in his award-winning 2007 effort? Did too many polar bears doom Gore’s 2017 movie?

Conclusions in the video about the predictions of polar bear decline vs. the current status of polar bears and sea ice are documented in my 2017 published paper:

Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 19 January 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v1 Open access. https://peerj.com/preprints/2737/

Crockford 2017 sea ice graphic