The Churchill Polar Bear Alert program has been busy in week 6 (Aug.13-19), with 67 occurrences to date: slower than last year but not quite as brisk as 2016. Some bears have already been released from the holding cells of “polar bear jail,” transported outside of Churchill and marked with a green dot to identify them as problem bears to residents of communities further north.
Compare the above to other years below, as welll as weeks 4 and 5. Previous weeks here and here.
A few polar bears have become stranded on small islands north of Svalbard since the local sea ice retreated — of which the bear that mauled a cruise ship guard last month was but one — and if return of the ice is as late as last year, those handful of bears are likely doomed to die of starvation. This is not due to climate change but rather bad judgment on the part of these few bears. They were not forced ashore: if they’d stayed on the ice like the rest of the population, they’d have likely been just fine.
Similar to the bear in northwestern Hudson Bay that fatally mauled a young father in early July, these bears were likely lured ashore by the prospect of masses of bird eggs present on island rookeries. But they overstayed their window of opportunity and the ice retreated without them.
Fledgling birds and bird eggs are not replacements for seals in a bear’s diet but when the season of easy seal kills winds down, as it does in late spring, easy-picking sea bird eggs may be enticing enough to lure a few bears ashore when they’d be better off on the ice.
That is not the fault of climate change.
Unlike bears in Hudson Bay and many other regions — including the Lancaster Sound area of Canada where the National Geographic “starving” bear was filmed last summer — these bears were not forced ashore by retreating ice: they chose to do so.
Posted in Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged attack, Barents Sea, climate change, polar bear, Refuge, sea ice, stranded, summer, Svalbard
Early on Sunday 5 August 2018, Brian Ladoon died at the age of 65 in Churchill, Manitoba — and so far, the media have said nothing. Brian dedicated his life to the preservation of the Canadian Eskimo Dog — which often attracted polar bears to his property — but he was also an accomplished artist.
In the early days, (Norbert Rosing photo.
As a lover of Arctic dogs, I remember hearing of Brian’s work decades ago but only that “someone” was working hard to save the breed. I never dreamed I’d come to know so much more about his work through my research on polar bear ecology and evolution.
I never met the man. But he has clearly been an icon of Churchill for decades and because of that, the place will not be the same without him. He is on the right in the photo below, for the TV series “Polar Bear Town” that ran in 2015 (some episodes below).