Category Archives: Life History

Polar bear specialist calls Hudson Bay freeze-up ‘late’ yet bears were moving offshore 2 weeks ago

Predictably, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher has finally posted a tracking map of the Western Hudson Bay bears his team has fitted with collars and eartags–two weeks after bears were released from Churchill’s polar bear jail, which is the local signal that there is enough sea ice for bears to leave shore. As I reported two weeks ago, release of jailed bears happened this year on 10 November. And as I predicted in that post, by waiting so long after that event to post his map, Derocher can make it seem to his naive followers on Twitter that the bears are just starting to leave now (the last map he posted was on 11 November, when none of his bears had moved). He reinforces this by calling WH freeze-up “late”, when by all objective measures (including local informants reporting bears on the ice) it was as early as it had been in the 1980s (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017).

Recall that fall is the second-most important feeding season for polar bears, due to the fact that seals are strongly attracted to newly-forming sea ice. It’s their chance to regain some or all of the weight lost over the summer, before the long winter fast begins (while bears indeed hunt when they can, they are not often successful during the depths of the Arctic winter: most bears are at their lowest weight by March).

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Eastern Canadian Arctic has much more sea ice than usual while Svalbard polar bears deal with less

Svalbard is still ice-free this fall, which it has been rather consistently for at least ten years but the amount of sea ice greater than ‘normal’ in the Eastern Canadian Arctic at this date is something to behold. Yet contrary to predictions, polar bears in Svalbard are thriving.

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Hudson Bay sea ice freeze-up in 2022 like the 1980s for the 5th time since 2015

This is the fifth year out of the last seven that enough sea ice has formed along the west coast of Hudson Bay by mid-November for bears to be able to head out to the ice, just as it did in the 1980s.

‘Green dot’ problem bear released from Churchill holding facility on 10 November 2022. Dorota Walkoski photo.

One of the independent polar bear guides on the ground near Churchill had this to say about the bears and freeze-up conditions this year:

“Bears started leaving on November 10; conservation emptied the jail on the 10th as well.”

‘The jail’ is the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program’s ‘holding facility’. While the Alert program folks have not released a report for this week (gee, I wonder why?), nearby tourist outfit Great White Bear Tours not only confirmed the bears were released from jail but posted a picture of a ‘green dot bear’: the mark put on problem bears released from the holding facility to keep track of them. Bears are not released before there is ample ice along shore for them to move out. Great White Bear Tours have been tracking bears moving offshore.

This information suggests the average date for bears leaving shore will likely turn out to be 12-14 November, again earlier than the average for the 1980s (16 Nov +/- 5 days) (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017). That makes five out of the last seven years (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) since 2015 that bears have left about the same time as they did in the 1980s.

While there are still be a few bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park that seem to be in no hurry to leave, a few stragglers doesn’t mean there isn’t ice available for hunting.

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Polar bear habitat update: ice forming along Hudson Bay, Wrangel & Franz Josef Islands surrounded

Western Hudson Bay polar bears near Churchill will be able to leave shore within days, at most one week later than in the 1980s, although you wouldn’t know that from the climate change activists at Polar Bears International who have spent the last week promoting some egregiously false and misleading statements. PBI controls the narrative surrounding Western Hudson Bay bears through their partnership with the biggest polar bear tourist outfits in Churchill and online.

Yesterday, it was “See how the climate crisis is changing their world”.

Developing no slower than it did in 2007 (16 years of no change), Arctic sea ice is providing polar bears in southern regions with their second-most critical feeding opportunities while in areas like Wrangel Island and Franz Josef Land, they now have easy access to and from important summer refuge/maternity denning islands. And contrary to predictions of increased ‘conflict’ between polar bears and people around Churchill, there have been fewer problem bear reports there in recent years, this year included. In other words, there is no ‘climate crisis’ for polar bears, even in Western Hudson Bay, and recent models of a dire future for polar bears are based on totally implausible worst-case climate scenarios. Sea ice loss since 1979 has been so gradual that polar bears have been able to adapt, either through natural selection or changes in behaviour.

UPDATE 12 November 2022. One of the independents on the ground near Churchill had this to say about the bears and freeze-up conditions this year:

“Bears started leaving on November 10; conservation emptied the jail on the 10th as well.”

[the 10th was the day this post was originally published; ‘the jail’ is the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program’s ‘holding facility’, see report below]. This information suggests the average date for bears leaving shore will likely turn out to be 12-14 November, again earlier than the average for the 1980s (16 Nov +/- 5 days). There may still be a few bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park that seem to be in no hurry to leave, but a few stragglers doesn’t mean there isn’t ice available for hunting.

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Polar bear triplet litter spotted near Churchill as ice starts to form along west coast of Hudson Bay

Polar bears, including a litter of triplet cubs (a sign of very good health), are gathering near Churchill, Manitoba where new ice is forming along the coast. This means the fall seal hunt will soon begin, depending on the winds (it might be a few days from now or a few weeks).

See below for some of the images of bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park taken by Explore.org video cams from Tundra Buggy-based cameras, as well as the most recent Churchill problem bear report.

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Western Hudson Bay polar bears waiting for the sea ice to freeze as tourists flock to watch

Should only be a few weeks more until the ice forms along the western shore of Hudson Bay, it’s already been snowing. But for the tourist outfitters around Churchill, this is their time to profit from those willing and able to spend big money to see polar bears up close.

from the Explore.org web cam, 18 October 2022

Those tourists are captive audiences for the global warming propaganda provided by activist organization Polar Bears International: it’s virtually impossible for anyone to escape the climate change doom-mongering in Churchill and that’s a real pity.

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New polar bear hunting habitat forming already along the coast of the Laptev Sea: A new trend?

Not even three weeks after the yearly minimum of sea ice extent was reached this year, new shorefast ice is already forming off the coast of Siberia, which is critical fall hunting habitat for polar bears.

Polar bears on a seal kill in new ice, 31 October 2020 in W. Hudson Bay via webcam.

So, not only was this year’s sea ice extent for September at the very lowest extreme of predicted levels for late summer, given ever-increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, new ice seems to be forming earlier in the fall as well, which bodes well for winter ice formation. It’s looking to me like the decade-long increasing trend of September ice extent since 2012 (see below) may indicate a change more biologically relevant to ice-dependent Arctic animals than the zero trend since 2007.

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Video: Fat polar bears on the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, one catches a goose

This little snack won’t make much difference to the bear’s survival but rare film footage of an already-fat bear (estimated at 1,000lbs) catching and eating a Canada goose on Friday last week (26 August 2022) just outside of Churchill on the western shore of Hudson Bay is not a bear motivated by starvation to eat something other than seals.

Newsreel of the goose hunt is below; photo of another fat bear, also near Churchill, taken the day before (25 August 2022) is shown above, see more from that day here.

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Last WH polar bears ashore even later than 2009 as Hudson Bay finally becomes ice-free

According to Andrew Derocher this morning, the last of his teams’ tagged polar bears have come ashore in Western Hudson Bay, in the last week of August. That makes two years out of the last three when the tagged WH bears came ashore as late, or later than, they had done in 2009 (a very cold year when they were onshore by about 20/21 August), something Derocher failed to mention during a CBC Radio interview also published today.

Don’t forget: this is the subpopulation that polar bear specialists use to model the future of all bears, everywhere in the Arctic but only use stale data from the 2000s because including more recent information would give a much more optimistic picture.

Meanwhile, no further reports from Churchill about problem bears: the last one issued was for the first week in August. Time will tell at freeze-up whether this will be yet another very good year for Western Hudson Bay bears.

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Grizzly on the shore of W. Hudson Bay and two tagged polar bears still on sea ice at 17 August

A tundra grizzly was again caught on the live cam set up for polar bears last week (15 August) but was too late for interspecies hankypanky, even as some polar bears lingered on invisible offshore sea ice.

A polar bear rests on the ice Aug. 23, 2009, after following the Coast Guard Cutter Healy for nearly an hour in the Beaufort Sea.

Polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher reported that two of his 23 tagged polar bears were still on the sea ice, a phenomenon that’s been happening since at least 2015 at breakup. Instead of heading to shore when the sea ice concentration dwindles below 50% coverage, some bears are choosing to lounge around on decaying bits of ice, sometimes into late July or well into August, until they must finally swim ashore. There is no evidence that the bears continue to successfully hunt seals under these conditions but no evidence either that their choice to stay on the ice rather than move to land at this time of year has had any negative impact on their health or survival.

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