A statement yesterday from Yegor Vereshchagin, wildlife conservation manager from Chukotka, Russia (Polar Bears Adjust to Climate Change, 20 February 2018) confirms that Chukchi Sea polar bears are currently doing extremely well.
Contrary to previous reports and predictions (e.g. Amstrup 2011; Amstrup et al. 2007, 2008; Durner et al. 2009), there appears to be no threats due to recent declines in summer sea ice (Rode and Regehr 2010; Rode et al. 2013, 2014, 2018) or from poaching.
“Representatives of other Arctic regions and the scientific community were more concerned about climatic change and its negative effect on polar bears, but these issues do not loom large with us. Both scientific data and traditional knowledge prove that nothing threatens our bears. During spring counts of dens we often find female bears with three cubs, which proves that the population is in good shape and there is no danger of a decrease in the population,” Mr. Vereshchagin said.
It was also pointed out that no evidence of poaching had been found on Chukotka lately. Experts, who followed web sites for illegal trade in skins and other derivatives, discovered about 40 advertisements and passed the information along to the Ministry of the Interior. None of those bears were hunted on Chukotka.” [my bold]
Increased open-water season in the Chukchi Sea between 1979 and 2015 shown in this NISDC graph (from Serreze et al. 2016):
The statement from Vereshchagin was part of a brief report from the Russian delegation to the early February Range States meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Unfortunately, the presentation given by Vereshchagin was not included in the documents provided on the meeting website.
It’s just one of many reasons there is much to be optimistic about with regard to polar bear conservation. More on this topic next week.
Amstrup, S.C. 2011. Polar bears and climate change: certainties, uncertainties, and hope in a warming world. Pgs. 11-20 in R.T. Watson, T.J. Cade, M. Fuller, G. Hunt, and E. Potapov (eds.), Gyrfalcons and Ptarmigan in a Changing World, Volume 1. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho. http://dx.doi.org/10.4080/gpcw.2011.0100
Amstrup, S.C.,Marcot, B.G. and Douglas,D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. Administrative Report, US Geological Survey. Reston, Virginia. 8.8 MB pdf here [may no longer be available online]
Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G., Douglas, D.C. 2008. A Bayesian network modeling approach to forecasting the 21st century worldwide status of polar bears. Pgs. 213-268 in Arctic Sea Ice Decline: Observations, Projections, Mechanisms, and Implications, E.T. DeWeaver, C.M. Bitz, and L.B. Tremblay (eds.). Geophysical Monograph 180. American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/180GM14/summary and http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/polar_bears/pubs.html
Durner, G.M., Douglas, D.C., Nielson, R.M., Amstrup, S.C., McDonald, T.L. and 12 others. 2009. Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models. Ecological Monographs 79:25-58. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/07-2089.1
Rode, K. and Regehr, E.V. 2010. Polar bear research in the Chukchi and Bering Seas: A synopsis of 2010 field work. Unpublished report to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, Anchorage. pdf here.
Rode, K.D., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2013. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Oral presentation by Karyn Rode, 28th Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, March 26-29. Anchorage, AK.
Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2014. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76-88. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12339/abstract
Rode, K. D., R. R. Wilson, D. C. Douglas, V. Muhlenbruch, T.C. Atwood, E. V. Regehr, E.S. Richardson, N.W. Pilfold, A.E. Derocher, G.M Durner, I. Stirling, S.C. Amstrup, M. S. Martin, A.M. Pagano, and K. Simac. 2018. Spring fasting behavior in a marine apex predator provides an index of ecosystem productivity. Global Change Biology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13933/full
Serreze, M.C., Crawford, A., Stroeve, J.C., Barrett, A.P. and Woodgate, R.A. 2016. Variability, trends and predictability of seasonal sea ice retreat and advance in the Chukchi Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research 121 (10):7308–7325. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016JC011977/abstract