The largest conservation organization in the world says that predictive models developed by polar bear biologist Steven Amstrup are utterly unsuitable for scientifically estimating future populations. Earlier this year, mathematical modeling experts at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, who maintain the Red List of Threatened Species, made it clear that Amstrup’s models (used in 2008 to convince the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ due to predicted global warming) do not meet IUCN standards.
I’d say this makes Amstrup’s polar bear projections (Amstrup et al. 2008, 2010) no more scientifically useful than a crystal ball prophesy, but you wouldn’t know it by his recent actions — or the silence of his fellows.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Amstrup, Bayesian models, conservation, crystal ball, data deficient, ESA, extinction, IPCC, IUCN, models, PBSG, polar bear, Polar Bear Specialist Group, predictions, Red list, Resit Akçakaya, sea ice, threatened, vulnerable
Since 1971, there have been only two years with as little sea ice in Davis Strait as there was this year at this time – 2003 and 2010. But the ice is forming rapidly and history shows it will likely catch up enough by next week to allow most Davis Strait polar bears to start hunting seals except along the Labrador coast.
Courtesy IUCN PBSG
Have a look at the ice maps and charts below from the Canadian Ice Service for the status of freeze-up in Davis Strait.
UPDATE 30 November 2014: Sea ice extent map from NSIDC added.
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
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.”
Posted in Advocacy
Tagged Assiniboine Park Zoo, Derocher, extinction, Journey to Churchill, messaging, plight of the polar bear, polar bear, polar bear cubs, propaganda, red herring, Winnipeg
Pretty typical ice levels in both regions for this time of year – Davis Strait polar bears (especially those in Labrador) are still onshore while Hudson Bay bears (even those in the south) have their sea ice hunting platform back.
Funny thing is, the Davis Strait subpopulation may still be increasing despite a longer ice-free season than Western Hudson Bay. And bears in the south of that region – who spend the summer onshore in Labrador – have the longest ice-free season of all1 yet according to the latest survey they were even doing better than bears in northern Davis Strait.
That apparent paradox has an easy explanation – sea ice extent in late summer/early fall (length of the ice-free season) has much less of an impact on polar bear health and abundance than the state of the food supply in the spring. More seals in spring, polar bears do well; few seals in spring, polar bears starve.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Davis Strait, Eastern Canada, harp seals, ice-free season, Labrador, Peacock, polar bear, sea ice extent, seal pups, spring sea ice, starving polar bears, survival
The Victoria blizzard of 1996 (Dec. 28-29) dropped 124 centimetres (48.8 inches) of snow. Not too far off some recent accumulations around Buffalo and other western New York State communities (great photos here). Just wacky weather (and nothing to do with polar bears) but memorable if you’ve lived through it and the stories out of NY have twigged my memories.
We get a maritime version of “lake-effect” snow here in Victoria (which is on Vancouver Island), where cold air moves offshore from the Interior of the province, travels over the relatively warm Strait of Georgia (see map below) and dumps snow on south island communities. Victoria is renowned for mild winters but when these cold conditions all line up just right, Victoria might as well be Buffalo.
Snow at the front door, original here, taken 28 December 1996 in Victoria, B.C.
I didn’t have a camera then, which is a pity, but others did. Someone downtown (where accumulations were somewhat less than 48 inches) made a video, copied below. A diversion from polar bear shenanigans that you might find of interest.
On this day (20 November 2014), there is way more sea ice over Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin than 2013, with ice starting to form in Hudson Strait.
The polar bears of Hudson Bay are on the ice (except pregnant females, who will be in their dens); Churchill polar bear season is over (see previous discussions here and here).
Ice maps and graph courtesy Canadian Ice Service.
Why did the Southern Beaufort polar bear population survey stop in 2010? It’s clear that the recently-published and widely-hyped new study stopped before the population rebound from a known decline was complete.
The researchers of the recently-published paper knew before starting their mark-recapture study in 2007 that the population decline had taken place. They also knew why the numbers dropped and that previous declines, caused by similar conditions, had been followed by a full recovery.
Did they really think a full recovery in population numbers was possible in only
three four years, when cubs born in 2007 would not yet have been old enough to reproduce?
In fact, a US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) fall survey of Southern Beaufort polar bears in 2012 found numbers were higher than they had been in a decade.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged abundance, aerial survey, Beaufort Sea, Bromaghin, cherry-picking, IUCN, mark-recapture, models, PBSG, polar bear, population estimate, population recovery, Regehr, satellite collars, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, thick spring ice, USFWS, withholding data