Another unsupported claim of starving polar bears in Western Hudson Bay

This time it was Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International (PBI), via a radio interview on Saturday December 28 “A Scientist’s New Job: Keeping The Polar Bears’ Plight Public.

Amstrup – co-author of the models that predict the extinction of polar bears by the end of this century – had this to say about the polar bear situation in Hudson Bay:

This year, the ice was frozen longer, so he says the bears seem to be in pretty good shape.

“But over the last two or three years, my impression has been, ‘Man, there’s a lot of skinny bears out here.’ “

On average, the sea ice in the Hudson Bay is frozen about a month less per year than it was 30 years ago. Amstrup says bears don’t eat much on land, so they lose about 2 pounds of body fat every day they’re off the ice.

“They’re 60 pounds lighter now than they might have been at this time of year 30 years ago,” he says.” [my bold]

For the last two or three years Amstrup has been seeing “a lot of skinny bears” but hasn’t taken a single photograph that he’s offered for publication or posted at PBI? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it – where are the photos of all the starving bears these guys keep talking about?

Here is a picture of a polar bear that was spending the summer on the shore of Western Hudson Bay 30 years ago, taken in July [bears were on the shore in July this year as well].

Figure 1. If this bear was 60lbs lighter would you be able to tell? Would she have starved to death if she was 60lbs lighter? From Ramsay and Stirling 1988:615. See also Featured Quote #7.

Figure 1. If this bear was 60lbs lighter would you be able to tell? From Ramsay and Stirling 1988:615. See my notes and comments in Featured Quote #7 and this previous post.

The polar bear data that supposedly confirm the assertions Amstrup makes in this story have not been published: see the full list (with references) here, and a recent update here on the withholding of critical evidence on Western Hudson Bay bears.

As for sea ice, Western Hudson Bay is not frozen (on average) for a month less now than 30 years ago: see discussion here and here, with sea ice maps here and here. There has been some change over this period in fall freeze-up dates for example, but the change in dates relevant to polar bears over the 33 year historic record of 1981-2013 is about 2 weeks.

And finally, as we reach the end of 2013, Amstrup acknowledges how frustrated he is that the world does not take him and his chicken-little colleagues seriously:

“He’s disappointed by how little political reaction there’s been to all that science has shown about the affects of global warming.

“We came up with all this compelling evidence,” Armstrup says. “It’s really, really clear we have a problem. And yet we see very little action on either the national or even the international scale.”

Perhaps the lack of “action” is because most people don’t consider predictions generated by a computer model to be “compelling evidence,” especially when it’s contradicted by actual observations  (summaries here, and here)?

Ramsay, M. A. and Stirling, I. 1988. Reproductive biology and ecology of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Journal of Zoology London 214:601-634.

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