Polar bear specialist says there are 800 polar bears in W Hudson Bay, gov’t says ~1,000-1,500

Activist polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta) may have gone too far this time. In an interview with Yahoo News, Derocher is quoted as saying:

“When I first started here about 30 years ago the population was about 1,200 bears and now we’re down to about 800,” team member Andrew Derocher, a biology professor at the University of Alberta, said in a phone interview from the tundra outside Churchill.”  [my bold]

Figure 4. Environment Canada's "Map 3: 2014 Canadian Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Map," original here.

Environment Canada’s “Map 3: 2014 Canadian Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Map,” original here. Click to enlarge.

However, the Polar Bear Technical Committee of Environment Canada says differently: it estimates there are ~1000-1,500 bears in Western Hudson Bay (WH) and that the population is probably stable, as their new status map (dated June 2014, copied above) shows. A recent (2014) peer-reviewed paper by Stapleton and colleagues (discussed here) provides the data for that estimate.

There is no peer-reviewed research published anywhere that gives a population estimate of ~800 bears for Western Hudson Bay — so is this number quoted by Derocher based on some of his secret research that hasn’t been published or did he just make it up?

Assuming this quote is what he actually said, it’s a bit concerning — Derocher is a long-standing member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and as such, represents Canadian interests in international polar bear conservation (see their assessment of WHB here). He’s also responsible for supervising a number of graduate students — the polar bear researchers of tomorrow. Quite a role model!

He is also quoted as saying:

So far this season, the weather has been mild. “It’s not normal that the bears should still be sitting on land, but there’s absolutely no ice on the bay yet, which we would expect this time of year,” Derocher said. “It definitely needs to be a lot colder before the bears are going anywhere.” [my bold]

Really? That’s not what the sea ice charts suggest — Hudson Bay ice looks to be on track for an early or at least average freeze-up date this year, see yesterday’s post and last year’s freeze-up summary here.

[Read the whole Yahoo interview here – and do have a look at the comments]

Makes me wonder — has Derocher gone rogue?

Related posts:
Hudson Bay freeze-up average this year – not late November 13, 2013

Where were the appeals to feed starving polar bears in 1974? February 21, 2013

The Politics of Polar Bears lengthy excerpt airs across Canada – cue the outrage [with Derocher interview] September 3 2014

Churchill problem bears and early breakup dates in WHB: The 1983 & 2004 anomalies October 15, 2014

Polar bears of W. Hudson Bay came ashore in 2009 as late as in 1992 March 21, 2013

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