Now, not so much. Here is a 16- year old CBC TV special on Churchill polar bears – listen to Ian Stirling and reporter Eve Savory use the early breakup of sea ice on Hudson Bay in 1999 to hype the alarm about Western Hudson Bay polar bears. Watch Stirling in action darting and measuring bears and bemoaning the good old days of the 1980s, claiming the “bears are sending a signal from the ecosystem.”
Watch this archived copy of “The Shrinking Bears of Hudson Bay” and compare his claims to what has actually happened in the 16 years since then. It runs just over 15 minutes.
“Just as the ice is shrinking in Hudson Bay, so are its polar bears. Climate change has shortened the season for winter ice, a crucial period for the bears to feast on seals and build up their fat reserves. And so, over the 18 years that wildlife biologist Ian Stirling has been studying them, the polar bears have become skinnier and their offspring fewer. In this 1999 report for CBC-TV’s The National, Stirling says once their habitat is gone, there’s nowhere else the Hudson Bay polar bears can go.” [my bold – see notes below]
• Program: The National [Canadian Broadcasting Company, CBC]
• Broadcast Date: Sept. 23, 1999
• Duration: 16:39
Stirling has continue to make these claims since 1999, yet no updated evidence has been provided. There is no plausible evidence that the decline of polar bear numbers in Western Hudson Bay was due to sea ice changes caused by human-caused global warming (Crockford 2015) or that continued declines in condition of bears or litter size have occurred. Note that the latest survey of Western Hudson Bay polar bears found no trend in either breakup or freeze-up dates since 2001 (Lunn et al. 2013) and that the population is now stable.
Ice coverage charts and breakup dates graph below, for context.
UPDATE ADDED – see below
Screen-cap map from the video:
Below is a graph of Hudson Bay ice coverage 1971-2015 for the week 2 July. It is apparent that very little ice was left on the bay on this date in 1999, but 2003 was just as low. Yet, the bears persisted and even the IUCN PBSG now consider the population to be stable.
Official breakup dates for Western Hudson Bay in particular, for 1979-2012, according to Lunn et al. 2013, with 1999 marked. Note that 1999 was not the earliest WHB breakup year since 1979 – in fact, 2003 was earlier. Click to enlarge.
UPDATE (just after posting): I meant to include the latest ice map and graphs for Canadian waters, added below, which shows Hudson Bay essentially (but not quite completely!) ice-free – finally, by 24 August 2015 (click to enlarge).
Here’s the latest graph for Hudson Bay coverage, at 20 August (1971-2015), note the scale on the left goes to only to 10:
There is still ice in Davis Strait and Foxe Basin, however (see the ice coverage graphs below, for the week of 20 August, click to enlarge).
Crockford, S.J. 2015. “The Arctic Fallacy: sea ice stability and the polar bear.” GWPF Briefing 16. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Pdf here.
Lunn, N.J., Regehr, E.V., Servanty, S., Converse, S., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2013. Demography and population assessment of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay, Canada. Environment Canada Research Report. 26 November 2013. PDF HERE