Arctic sea ice at the middle of winter (January-March) is a measure of what’s to come because winter ice is the set-up for early spring, the time when polar bears do most of their feeding on young seals.
[Mid-winter photos of polar bears are hard to come by, partly because the Arctic is still dark for most hours of the day, it’s still bitterly cold, and scientists don’t venture out to do work on polar bears until the end of March at the earliest]
At 12 February this year, the ice was similar in overall extent to 2013 but higher than 2006.
A new paper on Baffin Bay polar bears reports data on body condition and litter sizes collected as part of a major study of the region completed in 2013 compared to sea ice declines since the 1990s; based on a computer model, the authors predict that in 37 years time (if sea ice declines continuously), the incidence of twin litters could “largely disappear.” However, no decline in population numbers was predicted and a critical caveat acknowledges that factors other than changes in sea ice could have affected the body condition and litter size data the authors analyzed, which means the conclusions are scientifically inconclusive.
The last (2013) polar bear population survey of Baffin Bay (SWG 2016) generated an estimate of almost 3,000 (2,826; range 2,059-3,593), which means that regardless of some slight changes in body condition and litter size over the last two decades (which may or may not have been caused by loss of sea ice), there are currently a lot of bears in Baffin Bay.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged baffin bay, body condition, causation, correlation, extinction, fatness, Greenland, litter size, NASA, polar bear, sea ice, weight
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.
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.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Beaufort, Cross Island, fat bears, Kaktovik, observations, polar bear, population, Prudhoe Bay, sea ice, survey
After a bit of ineffectual hand-wringing from polar bear specialists about low summer and fall sea ice conditions and unsubstantiated worries about impacts on bear survival – including Southern Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and Hudson Bay – I’ve heard no concerns expressed so far about the unusually low extent of ice off the East Coast of North America at the start of this winter. The Labrador Coast is just about the only region bereft of ice this winter but could catch up quickly at any time: ice coverage in the Barents Sea, East Greenland, and Bering Sea is similar to or above recent levels (last five years) so far, as is the overall extent.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Davis Strait, habitat, Labrador, multi-year ice, Newfoundland, polar bear, sea ice, starvation, thick spring ice, winter
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.
Posted in Advocacy, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged BBC, Chukchi Sea, cubs, learning, melting, play, propaganda, Russia, sea ice, thin ice, video
A new video with clips of critical footage not available outside the UK shows that Sir David Attenborough and Netflix producers (who insisted earlier this year that climate change – not polar bears – were to blame for Russian walrus falling to their deaths) had deceived audiences around the world.
Falling Walrus: Attenborough Tacitly Admits Netflix Deception (Susan Crockford/GWPF).
As I explained last month, footage from the Attenborough/BBC TV series Seven Worlds, One Planet (Asia) showed conclusively that events precipitating the walrus tradegy porn sequence in the Netflix film was a deception. It means that Attenborough, director Sophie Lanfear, cameraman Jamie McPherson, WWF in Chukotaka, and scientific advisor Anatoli Kochnev all knew this to be so.
In case you missed it, another episode of the same BBC One Planet TV series falsely claimed that polar bears hunting whales from shore are unprecedented effects of climate change.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat, walrus
Tagged Attenborough, BBC, cliff, deception, falling, hunting, Netflix, polar bear, sea ice, tragedy porn, walrus, WWF
I’ve been home for just over 3 weeks now but even with all the demands on my time from family, friends, colleagues, and the media that I had to put off while I was away, I didn’t want to miss setting down a few final thoughts about my speaking tour across Europe. See previous posts here and here.
Polar bear beer had a prominent place at the post-conference dinner in Oslo.
Posted in academic freedom, Conservation Status, Life History
Tagged academic freedom, activists, children, climate change, Climate Realists, facts, lectures, polar bear, science, video