It’s long past time for polar bear specialists to stop holding out for a scientifically accurate global estimate that will never be achieved and determine a reasonable and credible ‘best guess’. Since they have so far refused to do this, I have done it for them. My extrapolated estimate of 39,000 (range 26,000-58,000) at 2018 is not only plausible but scientifically defensible.
In 2014, the chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) emailed me to say that their global population size number ‘has never been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand.’
In my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, I contend that this situation will probably never change, so it’s time to stop holding out for a scientifically accurate global estimate and generate a reasonable and credible ‘best guess’. Recent surveys from several critical polar bear subpopulations have given us the information necessary to do this.
UPDATE: I have made this a sticky post for a while: new posts will appear below.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Summary
Tagged abundance, catastrophe, Crockford, ecoregion, estimate, extrapolation, global, graph, guess, how many, numbers, PBSG, polar bear, population, timeline
The media are so gullible. So eager are they for a sympathetic polar bear victim that news outlets everywhere carried a story earlier this week about a Russian polar bear that had ‘T-34’ spray-painted on its side. They took the word of Russian polar bear/walrus consultant to WWF and Netflix, Anatoly Kochnev, that this was some kind of cruel joke that meant an untimely death for the bear. Turns out it was nothing of the kind.
Posted in Polar bear attacks
Tagged graffiti, joke, Kara Sea, Kochnev, Netflix, Novaya Zemlya, polar bear, problem bears, Russia, spray-paint, tagging, video, WWF
A scary-sounding headline from the BBC today screams “Ryrkaypiy: Far-north Russian village overrun by polar bears“. A little research would have shown (as I do below) that this sort of event is not unusual for this village, there is adequate sea ice off the coast to allow polar bears to hunt for seals if they choose to do so, and the photos provided do not support the claim that almost all of the polar bears “appeared to be thin” (see photo below and others). Similar incidents happened in 2013 and 2006. Increasing numbers of Chukchi Sea polar bears is the most plausible explanation for the recent abundance of bears at this village.
BBC headline, 5 December 2019. Does that look like garbage these fat bears are feeding on or the frozen remains of dead walruses at the base of the Cape Schmidt cliff?
UPDATE 8 December 2019: A Daily Mail version of the same story (6 Dec) confirms the photo above is of bears feeding on walrus remains (not garbage) and has many more photos (plus a video) of a large number of bears, not a single one of which that I saw was ‘skinny’ (see quotes from the story below). See also the Siberian Times version (6 Dec) with the same pictures. My source for the story was an article published by the BBC, which ran the day before (5 Dec).
UPDATE 9 DECEMBER 2019: Now it’s apparently 63 polar bears threatening the village of Ryrkaypiy on the Chukotka coast, according to the Siberian Times yesterday and repeated by the Daily Mail (with more pictures and video). Russian media getting lots of mileage out of this one. The story now says the bears are feeding on “seals”, not walrus (to deflect attention over their long history of walrus/polar bear problems? Or just a bad translation?). Both stories repeat the claim that most of the bears are “skinny” despite the photos showing just the opposite: lots of fat, healthy bears.
Also, uniquely (and rather bizarrely), the Daily Mail piece claims the bears are being deprived of the “fish” they should be consuming:
“Instead of hunting for fish in deeper waters , the bears are eating seal carcasses left in autumn.
Last year army servicemen cleared the village’s shore of remains of dead seals on which the bears are feeding.“
Obviously written by someone who knows absolutely nothing about polar bears, who rarely, if ever, eat fish and certainly would not be eating fish at this time of year. Sea ice map below for 8 December 2019 from the Alaska Sea Ice Program for 8 December shows, as noted below, that there is enough ice offshore for the bears to hunt seals if they chose to do so (since eating long-dead walrus is much easier than going hunting):
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Polar bear attacks, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Chukchi Sea, facts, fat, polar bear, problem bears, Russia, sea ice, thin, walrus
Polar bears leaping on the backs of belugas off Seal River, in western Hudson Bay, is being falsely promoted by the BBC’s new “Seven Worlds: One Planet” TV special as an unprecedented effect of climate change.
More specifically, the Daily Mail (30 November 2019) this morning quoted the documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, as saying:
‘This extraordinary behaviour has only been recorded here, in this remote corner of North America, and only in the last few years.’
Poppycock. More climate change hyperbole from Attenborough’s seemingly never-ending litany of nonsense that’s easily refuted. There is scientific literature documenting such behaviour in Canada’s far north in the 1980s, which I included in the blog post I wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago (after National Geographic published a similar scare-story), which I have reposted below.
And from the sounds of it, there was no mention in the BBC special that freeze-up along western Hudson Bay was early again this year: for the third year in a row. So if the footage was filmed any time since 2017, the claim of accelerating sea ice loss in this region and bears on land for longer than ever is pure fantasy. PS. Fat bears are not ‘starving’.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Attenborough, BBC, beluga, climate change, Hudson Bay, hunting, polar bear, sea ice, Seven Worlds One Planet, shore, starving
My satisfaction over four successful lectures in and around Delft in the Netherlands over the last few days was somewhat soured yesterday by the news that the EIKE conference in Munich scheduled for 22-23 November (my next and last stop on my European tour) was on the verge of collapse because of threats from anti-science protesters.
Blijdorp Zoo, Rotterdam, outside the polar bear enclosure. 17 November 2019.
This is the third year in a row that freeze-up of Western Hudson Bay (WH) ice has come earlier than the average of 16 November documented in the 1980s. Reports by folks on the ground near Churchill confirm polar bears are starting to move onto the sea ice that’s developing along the shore after almost 5 months on land. After five good sea ice seasons in a row for WH polar bears, this repeat of an early freeze-up means a sixth good ice season is now possible for 2019-2020.
Sadly for the tourists, however, it means the polar bear viewing season in Churchill will be ending early this year, just like it did last year and the year before.
Polar bear family on the ice off Churchill Manitoba (taken from a helicopter), courtesy Explore.org
When mothers with cubs are out on the ice (see photo above), it’s pretty certain the mass movement from land to sea ice is well underway because these family units are usually the last to leave.
UPDATE 19 November 2019: Polar Bear Alert report for 11-17 Nov (week 20) confirms that freeze-up is underway, bears are heading out on the ice and problem bears held in the ‘jail’ were released 13 November. See below.
UPDATE 6 Nov 2019: I have substantially modified this post based on receipt of the actual court documents describing the case, which is much more complicated than it appeared from the news reports quoted. Many thanks to Donna LaFramboise for passing it along! Clarifications in red, incorrect statements crossed out.
The Inuit fight in Canada with the federal government over polar bear conservation status continues. The government, led by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, reduced polar bear hunting quotas in Southern Hudson Bay only from 28 to 23, based on the results of the 2011-2012 survey. In response, Inuit groups have submitted affidavits in federal court stating that polar bears are thriving. The court dismissed the Inuit challenge even though polar bears in Canada are not considered threatened or vulnerable to extinction, and encouraged the two parties to resolve the dispute outside the court.
This arbitrary political decision by the government undermines the scientific assessment done by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and tramples Inuit rights. The dispute was about Inuit treaty rights vs. conservation concerns regarding sustainable harvest levels, not conservation impacts from climate change, and the decision did not resolve the issues of sex-selective harvesting and defense of life kills counting against harvest quotas.
Fat healthy polar bears from Southern Hudson Bay
Concerns I raised earlier this year – see here and here – regarding the Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix walrus tragedy porn episode have been vindicated by a new Attenborough BBC TV special called Seven Worlds, One Planet (Asia). It shows film footage of polar bears – taken by drones – driving walrus off the same Siberian cliff that was shown in the Netflix documentary film released in April.
Few of the reporters who covered this story bothered to investigate further despite the evidence provided by myself and others that polar bears and drones were the likely triggers for these deaths: they simply took Attenborough and the film crew at their word.
Netflix director Sophie Lanfear and cameraman Jamie McPherson insisted there were no polar bears in the vicinity at the time they shot their film footage but this was clearly not the case. They knew that bears were involved because they filmed them menacing the walrus!
It is now evident that McPherson filmed the 20 or so polar bears stalking walrus at the top of the Ryrkaypiy cliff and driving them over the edge for the BBC episode only a few days prior to filming a few walrus falling with no bears present on the cliff top for the Netflix film in September 2017. The bears were close enough when the Netflix sequence was filmed to converge immediately on the rookery to feed on carcasses once the walrus herd left the beach.
Fat, healthy polar bears (not desperately hungry ones) were indeed involved in these walrus deaths and so were drones. Lack of sea ice was not a significant factor.
UPDATE 6 November 2019: See Paul Homewood’s take on this here. Additional video added at the end.
Posted in Advocacy, Sea ice habitat, walrus
Tagged Attenborough, BBC, cliffs, deaths, drones, Lanfear, McPherson, Netflix, One Planet, polar bear, Ryrkaypi, tragedy porn, walrus