Experts talk of their bleak future, W Hudson Bay polar bears get earliest freezeup in decades

It seems that Churchill residents and visitors woke up this morning to find most local polar bears had left to go hunting — on the sea ice that supposedly doesn’t exist. Right in the middle of the Polar Bear Week campaign devised by Polar Bears International to drum up donation dollars and public sympathy for polar bear conservation!

Polar bear on the sea ice_Churchill_8 Nov 2017_Explore dot org cam my photo 2Frigid temperatures and north winds last night helped the process along, but this early freeze-up has been in the works for almost a week. From what I can ascertain, it appeared the only bears around onshore today were a mother with her young cub moving out towards the ice (females with cubs are usually the last to move offshore, probably to reduce the risk of encounters with adult males who might kill the cubs).

Tundra Buggy cams at have been showing markedly fewer bears today and those that have been seen were on the ice (see above and below) or heading out to it.

The chart below is for yesterday (7 November), before the cold and north winds hit the region. It shows the concentration of ice that’s >15 cm thick.

Hudson Bay North 2017 concentration Nov 7

The chart for 8 November is below, after the storm.

Hudson Bay North daily ice concentration 2017_Nov 8

This is ice thick and extensive enough for polar bears to go hunting. Some bears almost certainly left shore yesterday, with the rest following quickly on their heals today. There are sure to be some stragglers left ashore that will leave over the next few days but the fact remains: there is sea ice to be had for those polar bear willing to start hunting.

Watch polar bear on the WHB sea ice below (screen caps below – and one above – were taken the afternoon of 8 November, from the Tundra Buggy Cam live feed near Churchill).

Polar bear on the sea ice_Churchill_8 Nov 2017_Explore dot org cam my photo 3

Keep in mind that in the 1980s, bears left for the ice on 8 November, on average. That means we’re back to a 1980s freeze-up scenario, at least for this year.

Funny how no one bothered to mention the potential for an early freeze-up to the media last week, when scientist were so eager to talk about the imminent demise of WHB bears. And funny that Polar Bears International hasn’t tweeted a word today about the famous Churchill bears having enough sea ice to go hunting, smack in the middle of Polar Bear Week.

Yes, the “Save Our Sea Ice” PBI rallying cry sounds a bit hollow with sea ice as far as the eye can see off Churchill today. But will anyone in the mainstream media point out the irony?

See charts below for years back to 2004, on this date (2005 missing for some reason), to compare to the above 8 November image (2004 is as far back as the archive goes).

In 2016, there was ice developing along shore on this date but a south wind came along and blew it offshore. Bears didn’t leave the ice for another 4 weeks:

Hudson Bay North 2016 concentration Nov 8

What the ice looked like on 7 December 2016, when most bears left shore:

Sea ice extent Canada 2016 Dec 7_CIS PBs leaving Churchill for the ice

The weekly chart for that first week in December 2016 (daily charts not available):

Hudson Bay freeze-up 2016 Weekly_Dec 5


In 2015, most bears were hunting by 20 or 21 November although a few left earlier when the ice looked like this:

Hudson Bay North 2015 concentration Nov 8

In 2014, there was little is by 8 November…

Hudson Bay North 2014 concentration Nov 8

but most bears were gone by 16 November:

Hudson Bay freeze-up ice development_Nov 16 2014

2013 saw little ice by 8 November…

Hudson Bay North 2013 concentration Nov 8

But most bears left during the week after 13 November:

Hudson Bay freeze-up_2013 Northern Hudson Bay Nov 13


Hudson Bay North 2012 concentration Nov 8


Hudson Bay North 2011 concentration Nov 8

2010 (freezeup was late, bears left early December):

Hudson Bay North 2010 concentration Nov 8


Hudson Bay North 2009 concentration Nov 8


Hudson Bay North 2008 concentration Nov 8

2007 (looks like an early freeze-up year to the north, not so much around Churchill):

Hudson Bay North 2007 concentration Nov 8


Hudson Bay North 2006 concentration Nov 8


Hudson Bay North 2004 concentration Nov 8

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