Category Archives: Advocacy

2019 Alaska aerial survey found the most polar bears since 2012 – dozens of fat healthy bears

This aerial shot of six fat polar bears lolling around on a sand beach on the coast of the Southern Beaufort Sea, Alaska, was taken by NOAA employees in July 2019. It exemplifies the reality that bears in this subpopulation are currently abundant and healthy, negating the suggestion that numbers have continued to drop since 2006 because bears are starving.

Six fat polar bear wallow in SB sand_NOAA summer 2019

The above picture of polar bear health is not an exception but the rule for all 31 bears recorded onshore last July, as the photos below from other locations testify. Those who would blame this abundance of bears on lack of sea ice in 2019 should note that ice retreated as early and as extensively in 2017 yet only 3 bears were spotted onshore. Results of a recent (2017-2018) population survey, which have not yet been made public, will of course not reflect conditions seen in 2019.

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Polar bear cubs play on the thin ice that supposedly threatens them with extinction

This video tweet deserves a post of its own: two relatively inexperienced cubs-of-the-year in Russia deliberately break through thin ice, fall into the icy water and crawl back out – over and over again, for fun, as their mother watches in the background. Play is one way animals learn important survival lessons and for polar bears, this is one of them:

Thin ice was a natural component of the Arctic long before polar bears evolved to live there: it is nothing new but dealing with it requires a strategy that cubs must learn.

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Ryrkaypiy ‘over-run’ by >50 polar bears is probably due to more Chukchi Sea bears

A scary-sounding headline from the BBC today screams “Ryrkaypiy: Far-north Russian village overrun by polar bears“. A little research would have shown (as I do below) that this sort of event is not unusual for this village, there is adequate sea ice off the coast to allow polar bears to hunt for seals if they choose to do so, and the photos provided do not support the claim that almost all of the polar bears “appeared to be thin” (see photo below and others). Similar incidents happened in 2013 and 2006. Increasing numbers of Chukchi Sea polar bears is the most plausible explanation for the recent abundance of bears at this village.

BBC Russian village Chukotka over run by polar bears BBC 5 Dec 2019 headline

BBC headline, 5 December 2019. Does that look like garbage these fat bears are feeding on or the frozen remains of dead walruses at the base of the Cape Schmidt cliff?

UPDATE 8 December 2019: A Daily Mail version of the same story (6 Dec) confirms the photo above is of bears feeding on walrus remains (not garbage) and has many more photos (plus a video) of a large number of bears, not a single one of which that I saw was ‘skinny’ (see quotes from the story below). See also the Siberian Times version (6 Dec) with the same pictures. My source for the story was an article published by the BBC, which ran the day before (5 Dec).

UPDATE 9 DECEMBER 2019: Now it’s apparently 63 polar bears threatening the village of Ryrkaypiy on the Chukotka coast, according to the Siberian Times yesterday and repeated by the Daily Mail (with more pictures and video). Russian media getting lots of mileage out of this one. The story now says the bears are feeding on “seals”, not walrus (to deflect attention over their long history of walrus/polar bear problems? Or just a bad translation?). Both stories repeat the claim that most of the bears are “skinny” despite the photos showing just the opposite: lots of fat, healthy bears.

Also, uniquely (and rather bizarrely), the Daily Mail piece claims the bears are being deprived of the “fish” they should be consuming:

Instead of hunting for fish in deeper waters , the bears are eating seal carcasses left in autumn.

Last year army servicemen cleared the village’s shore of remains of dead seals on which the bears are feeding.

Obviously written by someone who knows absolutely nothing about polar bears, who rarely, if ever, eat fish and certainly would not be eating fish at this time of year. Sea ice map below for 8 December 2019 from the Alaska Sea Ice Program for 8 December shows, as noted below, that there is enough ice offshore for the bears to hunt seals if they chose to do so (since eating long-dead walrus is much easier than going hunting):

Chukchi Sea ice stage of development 8 Dec 2019 Alaska Sea Ice program

UPDATE 14 December 2019: Apparently, the number of invading bears is now 72 (number gets higher every time someone asks, even though they are still talking about “about a week ago”: who exactly is doing the counting?), according to a story today in The Times (UK). Residents say they move walrus carcasses “away” from the village to a “feeding point” for the bears but it’s apparent the distance is insufficient to prevent problems with bears coming into town. While a local cleaner working for the polar bear patrol (well indoctrinated by the WWF who sponsor the program), proclaims the problem is “definitely” due to climate change, there is finally the admission in this article that the bears coming into town are young bears driven away from the walrus carcasses by larger, older animals (i.e. intra-specific competition). This piece also has a few new photos, including one (below) of fat bears getting into garbage (still no photos of the so-called “skinny” bears said to dominate this “invasion”) and also is the first I’ve seen that doesn’t state that there is no sea ice (only that the ice extent is lower than usual). Some progress, but balanced by the hype promoted earlier this week (at “Treehugger” – what a surprise) by former WWF activist Geoff York (now at Polar Bears International), who is still blaming this incident on lack of ice.

Ryrkaypiy bears in local garbage_The Times UK 14 Dec 2019

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BBC’s One Planet falsely claims that polar bears hunting whales from shore is an unprecedented effect of climate change

Polar bears leaping on the backs of belugas off Seal River, in western Hudson Bay, is being falsely promoted by the BBC’s new “Seven Worlds: One Planet” TV special as an unprecedented effect of climate change.

Bear hunting beluga Seal River Sept 2017 Quent Plett photo

More specifically, the Daily Mail (30 November 2019) this morning quoted the documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, as saying:

‘This extraordinary behaviour has only been recorded here, in this remote corner of North America, and only in the last few years.’

Poppycock. More climate change hyperbole from Attenborough’s seemingly never-ending litany of nonsense that’s easily refuted. There is scientific literature documenting such behaviour in Canada’s far north in the 1980s, which I included in the blog post I wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago (after National Geographic published a similar scare-story), which I have reposted below.

And from the sounds of it, there was no mention in the BBC special that freeze-up along western Hudson Bay was early again this year: for the third year in a row. So if the footage was filmed any time since 2017, the claim of accelerating sea ice loss in this region and bears on land for longer than ever is pure fantasy. PS. Fat bears are not ‘starving’.

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Fabulous lectures in Holland done: Munich conference forced to relocate

My satisfaction over four successful lectures in and around Delft in the Netherlands over the last few days was somewhat soured yesterday by the news that the EIKE conference in Munich scheduled for 22-23 November (my next and last stop on my European tour) was on the verge of collapse because of threats from anti-science protesters.

Photo-15

Blijdorp Zoo, Rotterdam, outside the polar bear enclosure. 17 November 2019.

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Canadian Inuit file court documents stating polar bears are thriving

UPDATE 6 Nov 2019: I have substantially modified this post based on receipt of the actual court documents describing the case, which is much more complicated than it appeared from the news reports quoted. Many thanks to Donna LaFramboise for passing it along! Clarifications in red, incorrect statements crossed out.

The Inuit fight in Canada with the federal government over polar bear conservation status continues. The government, led by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, reduced polar bear hunting quotas in Southern Hudson Bay only from 28 to 23, based on the results of the 2011-2012 survey. In response, Inuit groups have submitted affidavits in federal court stating that polar bears are thriving. The court dismissed the Inuit challenge even though polar bears in Canada are not considered threatened or vulnerable to extinction, and encouraged the two parties to resolve the dispute outside the court. This arbitrary political decision by the government undermines the scientific assessment done by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and tramples Inuit rights. The dispute was about Inuit treaty rights vs. conservation concerns regarding sustainable harvest levels, not conservation impacts from climate change, and the decision did not resolve the issues of sex-selective harvesting and defense of life kills counting against harvest quotas.

James Bay female and cub_Ontaro Govt

Fat healthy polar bears from Southern Hudson Bay

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Polar bears precipitated Netflix walrus deaths, new Attenborough TV special shows

Concerns I raised earlier this year – see here and here – regarding the Sir David Attenborough’s Netflix walrus tragedy porn episode have been vindicated by a new Attenborough BBC TV special called Seven Worlds, One Planet (Asia). It shows film footage of polar bears – taken by drones – driving walrus off the same Siberian cliff that was shown in the Netflix documentary film released in April.

BBC One Planet Asia vs Neflix screencaps

Few of the reporters who covered this story bothered to investigate further despite the evidence provided by myself and others that polar bears and drones were the likely triggers for these deaths: they simply took Attenborough and the film crew at their word.

Netflix director Sophie Lanfear and cameraman Jamie McPherson insisted there were no polar bears in the vicinity at the time they shot their film footage but this was clearly not the case. They knew that bears were involved because they filmed them menacing the walrus!

It is now evident that McPherson filmed the 20 or so polar bears stalking walrus at the top of the Ryrkaypiy cliff and driving them over the edge for the BBC episode only a few days prior to filming a few walrus falling with no bears present on the cliff top for the Netflix film in September 2017. The bears were close enough when the Netflix sequence was filmed to converge immediately on the rookery to feed on carcasses once the walrus herd left the beach.

Fat, healthy polar bears (not desperately hungry ones) were indeed involved in these walrus deaths and so were drones. Lack of sea ice was not a significant factor.

 
UPDATE 6 November 2019: See Paul Homewood’s take on this here. Additional video added at the end.

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