We are constantly told things are getting worse for polar bears, especially those in Western Hudson Bay, because the ice-free season there was predicted to decline earlier than other regions. It hasn’t turned out that way but that does not stop the public rhetoric of doom or NGOs pleading for funds.
Last week, the Town of Churchill made public its first problem polar bear report of the year but oddly, it has only one entry. This is the first time I’ve seen such a sparse first report: since 2015, the first few incidents of the season have been subsumed into a first week report (issued no earlier than the first week of July) that announces the arrival of many bears on land.
Is this report of an isolated incident an attempt by Polar Bear Alert officials to make sure the first report of the season was not issued weeks later than usual? Or was it posted in isolation because the official response to the incident was caught on video and shared on social media (see below)?
UPDATE 22 July 2019: Published early this afternoon by the Town of Churchill, the problem polar bear report for the 2nd week of the season claims an error in last week’s report that they only just noticed when preparing this week’s report (but a full 24 hours after this blog post was published – but that’s probably a coincidence). Below is the report for week 2 (15-21 July 2019), showing that three incidents occurred last week.
Video footage of a big fat bear being chased out of town was posted on Facebook by a Churchill resident on Sunday 14 July at about 9:30 am (the last day of the activity report period):
The bear above is likely the same one captured on camera exploring a local townhouse development a few hours before:
Just north of Churchill the same week, a total of 16 polar bears were spotted at the mouth of the Seal River as they fed on a beluga whale one of them had caught (beluga flock to the shallow waters every year to give birth and nurse their young (see report here):
Previous first problem bear activity reports
In 2016, the first report of the season was similarly issued the second week in July but included two incidents from the previous week (compare 1. ‘reports this week’ to 2. ‘total…to date’). The bears were reported to be in ‘great shape’:
Here are the first reports of the season for other years back to 2015 (all I have; currently only 2018 reports are listed on the Town of Churchill website – reports from all other years have been removed).
Back in April, University of Alberta polar bear researcher Andrew Derocher was out on the ice tagging bears in Western Hudson Bay and wringing his hands on Twitter about “way too warm” temperatures and what that could mean for bears this year.
Turned out he was very wrong: he later reported via Twitter that by 13 July, only two of the 22 bears tagged this spring had come ashore (map below) while admitting that polar bears have poor seal hunting success on early summer ice.
Similarly, Polar Bears International made Western Hudson Bay bears the focus of their “Arctic Sea Ice Day” on Monday (15 July), making it sound like the bears were already in dire straights. Turns out they were taking liberties with the truth, as I summarized in my last post.