A cross-Arctic comparison shows that the US has been the most aggressive in designating polar bears and their main prey species as ‘threatened with extinction’ due to the predicted effects of human-caused (“anthropogenic”) global warming (AGW), even though the US has the least amount of sea ice habit of all circumpolar nations.
I’ve made a chart listing the conservation status of these species across all Arctic nations (Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark (for Greenland) and the USA), as well as the one international body that considers the conservation status of all species (International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN).
Oddly, the IUCN considers the polar bear vulnerable due to future threats from predicted sea ice losses but not ringed seals or bearded seals. This situation highlights the capricious nature of the use of “future threats” (almost exclusively based on predictions of AGW) as a valid criteria for evaluating the conservation status of Arctic marine mammals. It also suggests why the IUCN has tightened considerably its rules regarding this practice.
Posted in Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged AGW, Arctic nations, arctic seals, bearded seal, conservation, global warming, IUCN, North Pole, polar bear, Polar Bear Specialist Group, ringed seal, threatened with extinction, walrus
The first-ever population estimate for polar bears in the Kara Sea is an astonishing 3,200 bears (range 2,700-3,500). Russian researchers report the results in a new paper (Matishov et al. 2014, in English).
Polar bear counts were made during late winter/early spring (approximately January to April) from ice-breakers between 1997 and 2013. Females with cubs (whether one or two) were noted. The counts were extrapolated to give a total for the entire region (as is usual for all such surveys).
The question is, will the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) consider this new polar bear count to be reliable or complete enough to include in their next IUCN assessment?
This week, Arctic sea ice in Canada, where 2/3 of the world’s polar bears live, had more sea ice than was present in the early 1970s. Globally, the ice is spitting-distance close to the 1981-2010 average calculated by the NSIDC for this date – which means lots of winter/spring hunting habitat for polar bears.
This is the peak of the polar bear birthing season (both in the wild and in zoos.) Newborns will be snug in maternity dens built by their mothers onshore or on the sea ice; the rest of the population will be out on the ice.
Regional ice charts going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s for this week show even more surprises — have a look.
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged baffin bay, Davis Strait, Eastern Beaufort, Eastern Canada, Hudson Bay, ice extent, polar bear, polar bear habitat, polar bears in winter, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, Western Arctic
This is not a bet or prophesy based on models, it’s my conviction as an experienced zoologist, based on history demonstrating the resilience of the species.
I’m so sure about Western Hudson Bay polar bears that I’ve started a spare-change jar marked “Send Nico to Churchill.” Nico is my new grandson, just two months old now. This will be our first Christmas with a baby in a long time.
Nico’s special savings account will assure that in 20 years (given wise investments), he’ll be able to see Churchill polar bears in their own element.
Warmest wishes to all my readers and thanks for your support, it is much appreciated.
NOAA’s list of purported evidence for harm being caused to polar bears by Arctic warming is short and weak. It puts the gloomiest spin possible on the current well-being of an animal with all the earmarks of a healthy, well-distributed species.
This year, polar bears are virtually the only species that NOAA mentions in their Arctic Report Card – they’ve put all their icon-eggs in one leaky basket [what happened to walrus??]. But polar bears are doing so well that to make an alarming case for polar bears as victims of Arctic warming, many important caveats had to be left out or misrepresented. Some details given are simply wrong.
This year’s polar bear chapter was penned by IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group chairman Dag Vongraven (you might recall his email to me earlier this year) and a polar bear conservation activist from Polar Bears International (whose battle cry for donations is “Save Our Sea Ice!”), Geoff York.
I challenge their four weak talking points one by one below.
Posted in Population, Sea ice habitat, Summary
Tagged Arctic, Arctic Report Card, breakup, Bromaghin, cherry-picking, freeze-up, Geoff York, hybridization, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, mark-recapture, polar bear, population estimate, red herring, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, thick spring ice, USFWS, Vongraven, western hudson bay
Apparently, some biologists think that outputs from complex computer models will convince native Arctic residents that invasive mark-recapture work has no long-term effect on the health and well-being of polar bears.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Amstrup, Bromaghin, Government of Nunavut, handling, Inuit, invasive research, mark-recapture, models, observations, Peacock, polar bear, Rode, satellite collars, tranquilizer drugs
New evidence has come to light that mark-recapture field work used to calculate a new population estimate for Southern Beaufort polar bears did not conclude in 2010 as implied in a widely-publicized paper last month but continued until 2013.
Steve Amstrup in S. Beaufort, 2005 (USGS photo), co-author of Rode et al. paper.
As I discussed previously, last month’s widely-hyped paper (Bromaghin et al. 2015
in press) – which reported a decline of ~40% between 2004 and 2010 (based on spring mark-recapture work) – was contradicted by fall survey counts that suggested strongly a population rebound would have been apparent if the mark-recapture work had continued another two years.
A new paper by Karyn Rode and colleagues (which includes Bromaghin and others (e.g. Amstrup) from the previous paper), summarized in a USGS press release issued on Monday and published online Tuesday, utilized comprehensive data collected during mark-recapture work carried out in spring from 1982 to 2013 in the Southern Beaufort Sea.
This new paper used the same kind of comprehensive data as Bromaghin and colleagues – from the same season, in the same region – to assess potentially negative effects of the mark-recapture research method itself, up to 2012 and beyond.
More on the Rode et al. conclusions later1 – for the moment, what is important is that the work described in the paper confirms that spring mark-recapture work on polar bears in the Southern Beaufort continued beyond 2010. Bromaghin and colleagues didn’t end their mark-recapture work prematurely — they actually left data collected in 2011 and 2012 out of their population estimate analysis when they had to have known the population had not finished rebounding from the 2004-2006 decline.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged abundance, aerial survey, Amstrup, Beaufort Sea, Bromaghin, cherry-picking, IUCN, mark-recapture, models, PBSG, polar bear, population estimate, population recovery, Red list, Rode, satellite collars, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, USFWS, withholding data