Two out of three polar bear females that were collared by USGS researchers near Barrow, Alaska last spring are hanging out on the northwest coast of Banks Island, Canada. The other bear (bright green icon) appears to have been collared on the ice off Prudoe Bay in April. And as I discussed last month, it’s unusual for bears from the western end of the Southern Beaufort subpopulation (or even the central region) to end up in the Northern Beaufort subpopulation territory.
While it’s too early to say whether these females will den at this location for the winter (and have their cubs on Canadian soil), it looks highly likely at this point. Still, it’s possible there is some attractant onshore that’s keeping them there, like a beached whale, since all three moved into the region in July and have remained there ever since (previous months’ maps here).
Sea ice has been lower than usual for recent years this fall but certainly not the lowest it’s been since 1968, as the CIS ice graph below shows – both 2012 and 1998 were lower and 2009 was almost as low (entire Beaufort region, CIS week of 29 October – the most recent available):
And if we look at just the Alaska region, this year is about as low as it was in 2012 and 1998 but surprisingly, 1968 was the next lowest (based on extrapolated data)(Alaska region of the Beaufort, CIS week of 29 October – the most recent available):
Here is the most recent ice map, for 5 November 2016 (CIS), showing the shorefast ice forming along the coast of western Alaska: