Polar bears in W. Hudson Bay are in good shape, says researcher. So are numbers really falling?

We’ve got ourselves another round of field data–i.e., facts–not fitting the polar-bears-are-starving-to-death narrative. According to polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher, Western Hudson Bay polar bears his team saw in April while installing collars and ear tags were in good shape this year, as he said they were last year. There was no spring field work in 2021 and 2020 but in 2019, he also said the bears he saw were in good condition.

Andrew Derocher 4 May 2023, reporting on Western Hudson Bay field work

Two years in a row of bears in good condition in spring–with no mention of starving bears–does not fit the picture of a population supposedly declining due to starvation. The most recent population count for WH, which garnered wide-spread media attention just before Christmas last year, claims that a 27% decline in numbers took place between 2017 and the fall of 2021 even though sea ice conditions had been good during those five years as well. It’s a perplexing situation. Makes me really wonder what that survey report actually says, but it still hasn’t been released, five months after the results made news around the world.

Screenshot from 8 May 2023 tweet

Spring WH bear reports

Andrew Derocher and his team of students from University of Alberta have been monitoring WH polar bears for years. They go out every spring, in April, to tag and collar bears. Derocher communicates almost exclusively via Twitter, so there is seldom anything more than brief snippets of information provided. Links below to his original tweets:

Spring 2023 – bears reported in good condition

Spring 2022 – bears reported in good condition

Spring 2021 – no field work but a population survey was done that fall

Spring 2020 – no field work but a number of bears left the ice as late as the 1980s, in mid-to-late August

Spring 2019 – bears reported in good condition and left the ice in August, as late as 1980s

Hudson Bay sea ice conditions

The patch of thick sea ice (>1m, dark green) over the central portion of the bay isn’t as extensive as it often is in early May, which may mean breakup will come earlier than it has for the last few years:

Compare above to 2020 at 4 May:

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