International Polar Bear Day & Polar bears in the news this week

Today’s the day to celebrate the resilience and adaptability of polar bears.

Not only did the record-breaking sea ice low of 2012 have virtually no effect on the bears but in 2014, only two subpopulations were classified as “declining” or “likely declining” – down from seven in 2010 and four in 2013 (see map below).

 Figure 6.  Most recent global polar bear population status assessment, using figures from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group assessment (2013) and Environment Canada (May 2014). Note that of the two subpopulations denoted as being on a likely declining trend, BB (Baffin Bay) is suspected to be declining due to over-hunting and SB (Southern Beaufort) had an unfinished rebound caused by thick spring ice conditions in 2004-2006; a more recent survey (2012) indicated SB numbers were higher than the previous 10 years.

See my recent Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears.
[GWPF Briefing Paper version (pdf), just out today, here]


Kudos to the CBC for producing a propaganda-free polar bear “Fun Facts” page for kids that won’t give them nightmares – have a look.

Other news: Polar bears come early to Black Tickle, Labrador this year, a new population count is planned for the Barents Sea subpopulation, and The Times (UK) publishes some good news about polar bears. Details below.

UPDATE February 27, 2015. I’ve added another news item I missed below.

UPDATE APRIL 7, 2015. Correction to the February 27 update below.

25 February 2015Polar bears ‘coming in all directions’ in Black Tickle” (“Resident says keeping bears away from community ‘like herding cows‘”).
[CBC; see previous post here for map and background on polar bears in Black Tickle and Newfoundland]

“Jeffrey Keefe estimates there were about nine polar bears in the vicinity of Black Tickle on Monday, marking one of the earliest times yet that the large carnivores have been spotted in the coastal Labrador community.

Are residents in a state of panic?

Not at all, says Keefe.

“I love to see ’em,” Keefe, a sergeant with the Canadian Rangers, told CBC Radio’s
Labrador Morning.

“They’re coming in all directions.”

Black Tickle is an island community on the southeast coast of Labrador, with a population of less than 200 residents.

It is common for polar bears to visit, but they traditionally arrive in the spring as they make their way back north.”

[ice extent at 24 February 2015 below, from NSIDC]

Sea ice extent 2015 Feb 25 NSIDC

Sea ice extent 2015 Feb 25 NSIDC

25 February 2015“Russians and Norwegians cooperate on polar bear inventory” [Trude Pettersen, Barents Observer]

“Norwegian and Russian scientists are going to cooperate on counting the number of polar bears around Svalbard and Franz Josef Land.
For the first time in 11 years the number of individuals in the Norwegian-Russian stock of polar bears will be counted. In 2004 scientists counted some 3000 bears in the area.

The expedition starts in August. The scientists will sail to the edge of the ice and fly northwards by helicopter.

For polar bear researcher Jon Aars it is vital to see if the changes in the ice cover has affected the total number of bears. He is not sure: “Less ice is generally bad news, and will surely have consequences for the polar bears. But this does not necessarily mean that there are fewer bears than in 2004,” Aars says to NTB, and adds that the shallow waters west of Franz Josef Land still have much ice. “It might be that it is just as good to be a bear in these areas now, as it was 10-15 years ago.”

[Barents Sea polar bear boundaries, below]

Barents Sea subpopulation boundaries, courtesy IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group

Barents Sea subpopulation boundaries, courtesy IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group

27 February 2015 “Ice is melting but the polar bears are fine, say sceptics” [Ben Webster, The TImes UK; subscription required, excerpt below]

“Polar bear populations are recovering well despite claims that declining Arctic sea ice is threatening their survival, according to a report by a group which disputes mainstream thinking on climate change.

There are at least 25,000 bears, more than double the number in the 1960s, when hunting had left some populations close to collapse, according to the author of the report, Susan Crockford, a zoologist and adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. She said polar bears were “a conservation success story”.

The melting of sea ice as the temperature in the Arctic rises twice as fast as elsewhere has prompted fears that polar bears will starve, because they depend on the ice to catch seals. “Polar bears are doing well despite dramatic declines in summer sea ice, for one simple reason: polar bears don’t need ice in late summer/early fall as long as they are well fed in the spring,” Dr Crockford concluded in the report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The number of subpopulations which are “likely in decline” has fallen from seven in 2010 to two last year, according to an assessment by Canada’s Department of the Environment.

About 3,200 polar bears were added late last year to the global known total after Russian biologists completed the first assessment of the Kara sea population. Polar bears in the Chukchi sea are “in good condition and reproducing well” and numbers in the southern Beaufort sea are the highest for a decade, the report said.

“Even though 2012 had the longest open-water period in the southern Beaufort since at least 1979, researchers in the area reported no starving bears during the summer of 2012 or in the spring of 2013,” Dr Crockford wrote.”

21 February 2015“Rimouski: Un ours polaire aurait dérivé sur plus de 2,000 km” [A polar bear is found on an iceberg or iceflow in the St. Lawrence River and air-lifted to Labrador] Google translation of the original below. [h/t to Kelsey Eliasson at Polarbearalley], Google map below for the location of Rimouski, Quebec.

Rimouski_St Lawrence polar bear location Feb 2015

Rimouski : A polar bear would have derived [traversed?] more than 2,000 km

Rimouski | A polar bear would have derived [traversed?] more than 2,300 km on an iceberg [or iceflow?] from the Canadian Arctic to finish his journey safe and sound in the estuary of the St. Lawrence near Rimouski before being recovered by wildlife conservation Officers in collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard this morning we learned.

The polar bear whose weight is estimated at 800 pounds would have lost a lot of weight during her trip, experts fear when he [sic] found himself kidnapped on his island of ice on which he probably survived by eating rare fish caught off the iceberg.

The animal was quickly recovered by wildlife conservation officers who have fallen asleep with tranquilizing darts and requested the cooperation of the Coast Guard to look after the evacuation by air of the imposing beast.

“It was important to prevent the animal to visit the coast, “says biologist Joan Francoeur who participated in the rescue operation . “A 800-pound polar bear hungry, it can be potentially dangerous, especially near a town of 50,000 inhabitants,” she said. “Fortunately, everything went well and the animal is unharmed.”

UPDATE April 7, 2015. Thanks to an email alert by reader Mary, it appears the above was a spoof: the website on which it appeared is a Quebecois version of ‘The Onion’. So, no polar bear in the St. Lawrence: it was all a joke.

This fact is more apparent from a more recent “news” item, from the same site, translation below:

Coaticook | Associated Quebec scientists at the University of Montreal, discovered what would be the oldest Easter Bunny specimen ever found in America.

The skeleton of the famous rabbit was discovered in a wooded area in the Eastern Townships, near the town of Coaticook, Quebec by a team of paleontologists led by Professor Gilles Cazeault. They thought they had discovered a simple Easter bunny from the colonial era, but carbon dating analysis 14 revealed that it was actually a specimen dating from prehistoric times. [my bold]

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