Researcher says most S. Hudson Bay polar bears still on the ice, may have to swim home

More than half of Southern Hudson Bay polar bears under study are still out on the thick Hudson Bay sea ice that’s been giving Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers so much trouble.

Figure 6. James Bay polar bear female and her cub during the ice-free period. Notice how fat they both are. Courtesy Ministry of Natural Resources, News Ontario, June 2, 2009.

James Bay polar bear female and her cub on shore. Courtesy Ministry of Natural Resources, News Ontario, June 2, 2009.

As I pointed out a few days ago, most of the ice remaining on Hudson Bay is in the region used by Southern Hudson Bay polar bears. While you wouldn’t know it from the Polar Bears International “Bear Tracker” – which hasn’t been updated since 2 July – on Friday (24 July 2015) Ontario polar bear researcher Martyn Obbard used the PBI website to reveal where his study sample of polar bears are located.

Obbard posted a little essay on PBI’s “Save our sea ice!” website which had, buried near the end, the admission that on 20 July, five out of his nine Southern Hudson Bay females with satellite radio collars were still out on the ice, “far from the Ontario coast.

Journey of Southern Hudson Bay Polar Bears

By the last week of June, James Bay was largely ice free, and two of our bears came ashore on Akimiski Island.

The rest of our collared bears stayed far out on the ice in eastern Hudson Bay, west and south of the Belcher Islands, extending their hunting opportunities as long as possible. By mid-July, two more bears had left the ice and come ashore near Cape Henrietta Maria, where Hudson Bay and James Bay meet on the Ontario side [see map added by me below].

However, at this writing (July 20th), five more bears remain on the ice far from the Ontario coast. Their journey over the next few weeks will be interesting to monitor as the ice is deteriorating more rapidly now. Their journey may include a very long swim to the Ontario coast. Stay tuned!” [my bold]

Cape Henrietta Maria ON_SH bears ashore

Cape Henrietta Maria marked, onshore destination of two SH bears in mid-July. Belcher Islands are the group to the northeast. Compare to ice maps below. Click to enlarge.

Really? He thinks their journey home “may include a very long swim to the Ontario coast“?

Have a look at the sea ice on the day Obbard wrote his essay below (20 July), and below that, the sea ice on the day this blog post was written, 25 July (click to enlarge) – see if you think that’s likely:

Hudson Bay breakup July 20 2015_CIS

Hudson Bay breakup July 25 2015_CIS

PS. This is my third year anniversary post for this blog – I started on 26 July 2012. It looks like the 26th will end within a witch hair’s breath of half a million views (check view recorder at lower right column). Beers all round!

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