Sea ice is well above recent levels for this time of year in the Southern Beaufort and only time will tell if that’s bad news for polar bears. Seals need the open water that early summer polynyas provide in order to feed and some polar bears make use of the hunting opportunities (Stirling and Cleator 1981; Stirling et al. 1981).
It’s been a decade since there was this little open water at the beginning of summer in the western North American Arctic, especially the Southern Beaufort. It’s looking unlikely there will be extensive open water until well into July, which may result in many fewer bears on shore in early summer. Recall that in July 2019, NOAA employees counted 31 fat, healthy bears onshore along the Alaska coast.Continue reading