Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 was a great year for polar bears and for EATEN

Not only did we see plenty of great news about polar bears but EATEN (my first novel) is now well on it’s way to being a resounding success. Don’t let your friends and colleagues have all the nightmares! Fabulous read for a long cold NH winter’s night but also an excellent choice for the beach…perhaps fewer nightmares?

polar_bear570  ONTARIO MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The Canadian Ice Service predictions for winter 2016 off eastern Canada (where my novel takes place) is for extensive ice for the third year in a row. That means only nine years to go for the situation in 2025 to meet my speculations regarding a most terrifying onslaught of starving polar bears in Newfoundland.

I don’t ask for donations here at PolarBearScience – if you appreciate my efforts (418 posts and almost 630,000 views since late July 2012) and would like to see more of the same, please buy a copy or two of my book (and don’t forget to go back and leave a brief review; only the number of stars count). Paperback editions here and here; Ebooks for immediate gratification (Kindle; All other e formats).

EATEN-cover-front_thumbnail

In 2015, the Arctic Fallacy was exposed, there were official admissions of population increases (here and here) – all after we had Twenty Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears.

More of the same for 2016!

A heartfelt Happy New Year to you and yours, from a Canadian zoologist not afraid to wonder ‘what if’ but honest enough to call the output fiction.

Susan

Survey Results: Svalbard polar bear numbers increased 42% over last 11 years

Results of this fall’s Barents Sea population survey have been released by the Norwegian Polar Institute and they are phenomenal: despite several years with poor ice conditions, there are more bears now (~975) than there were in 2004 (~685) around Svalbard (a 42 30% increase) and the bears were in good condition.

Svalbard polar bear fall 2015_Aars

Oddly, in a September report right after the count, biologist Jon Aars reported them in “excellent” condition, with some of them “as fat as pigs.” I guess “good” is the same as “excellent.”

Bears in the Russian portion of the Barents Sea were not counted this year because the Russians would not allow it; the previous total count, from 2004, was 2,650 (range ~1900-3600) for the entire region.

map-BarentsSea

In the map above (courtesy the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group), the Svalbard archipelago is on the left (Norwegian territory) and the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya on the right (Russian territory).

Oddly, the comments made by lead researcher Jon Aars to a Norwegian newspaper (in English), which picked this up yesterday (“Polar bears make a comeback” ), were far more positive than those in the press release (which is likely all that western media will see).

UPDATE 24 December 2015: The new population survey number for Svalbard is actually a 42% increase over the 2004 number. Thanks to Arvid Oen, a WUWT reader, for alerting Anthony Watts to the error, and to Anthony for passing it along. Title and text fixed accordingly, apologies to any others who have picked this up. Cheers and Merry Christmas.

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Some polar bears make poor choices, like this one in James Bay

CBC reported this morning that a polar bear was shot last Friday (18 December) at the dump in Moose Factory, Ontario – long past the date when bears in Southern Hudson Bay are usually out on the ice. But a single bear in trouble does not spell catastrophe for the species or the local population: how many times does this need to be said?

Moose Factory_Wikipedia

Claims of “almost no ice” seem a bit disingenuous, since this seems to be the only bear caught in this situation (if there are others, no one has reported it): other bears appear to have either made use of the ice that was present (see map below) or walked north until they found more ice. This bear (picture below) seems to have decided that the fare on land might do for a while longer, which suggests he’s either a subadult bear (with little experience) or an old one – looks like the former to me in the picture below but the report doesn’t say.

Moose Factory_polar-bear-in-dump_CBC Dec 22 2015

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Organizations fail to acknowledge 2015 Red List polar bear assessment info

You have to know that the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment for polar bears contains good news because no one is talking about it – and none of the online information sources I’ve checked have updated their polar bear profiles to reflect it.

For all its flaws (including the deceptive focus on summer sea ice), this Red List update is the most statistically robust, in-depth study of the conservation status of polar bears – why is it being ignored, especially by the conservation organizations people turn to for information online?

UPDATE: see 18 January 2016 post here.

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Hudson Strait and Davis Strait polar bear habitat highest since 1993

Sea ice development over Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait has been rather unusual this year but what that might mean for polar bears over the coming winter and spring is hard to tell.

Canadian Arctic Dec 11 2015_CIS

Note: The Canadian Ice Service seems to be in the process of updating its sea ice page and graphing features that used to be available weekly on Thursday have not been available until the following week. This means the most recent graphs available are for the week of 11 December (see below).
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Barents Sea polar bears adapt to changing sea ice conditions

Sea ice development in eastern Svalbard this fall is lagging well behind the rest of the Arctic. Several polar bear researchers (e.g., Andrew Derocher here and here) have recently been raising the alarm that this might be devastating for Barents Sea females looking for suitable denning sites.

Barents Sea ice 2015 Dec 2_NIS_sm

The implication is that pregnant polar bear females are inflexible – so fixated on one location to give birth that they are unable or unwilling to choose an alternative if conditions preclude using their preferred location this year. However, the available facts do not support such a pessimistic attitude.
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Hungry polar bear attacks: why my novel “Eaten” is set in early March

As I’ve pointed out previously, polar bears are leanest – and thus, hungriest and potentially the most dangerous to humans – at the end of winter (i.e. March).

Polar bear feeding by season simple_Nov 29 2015

That is why the unexpected prospect of hundreds of lean and hungry polar bears coming ashore in early March hunting available human prey would be a truly terrifying and daunting experience. Such a speculative scenario stands in marked contrast to an actual incident in July that involved a single well-fed bear that attacked a man asleep in a tent because he and his companions had chosen to dismiss the known risk.

Any predatory attack by a polar bear is terrifying but which is potentially the more deadly? One you can reasonably expect (and thus prepare for) or one that comes out of the blue and catches everyone unprepared?
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