Exciting news about polar bears in eastern Canada: the peer-reviewed paper on the Davis Strait subpopulation study has finally been published (Peacock et al. 2013). It concludes that despite sea ice having declined since the 1970s, polar bear numbers in Davis Strait have not only increased to a greater density (bears per 1,000 km2) than other seasonal-ice subpopulations (like Western Hudson Bay), but it may now have reached its ‘carrying capacity.’
This is great news. But where is the shouting from the roof-tops? This peer-reviewed paper (with its juicy details of method and analysis results), considered by some to be the only legitimate format for communicating science, was published February 19, 2013. No press release was issued that I could find and consequently, there was no news coverage. Funny, that.
There was a bit of shouting back in 2007 when the study ended and the preliminary population count was released – polar bear biologist Mitch Taylor is quoted in the Telegraph (March 9 2007) as saying:
“There aren’t just a few more bears. There are a hell of a lot more bears.”
There was also a CBC news item in January 2007 and a Nunatsiaq|Online report in October 2009 when the official government report was completed. But these were all based on preliminary information and focused on the population increase only.
This new paper (Peacock et al. 2013) reveals that the story in Davis Strait is about more than simple population growth. Small wonder no one is drawing attention to it. Continue reading