Category Archives: Polar bear attacks

Good news update out of W Hudson Bay: fat polar bears are behaving themselves

Despite continued dire predictions of catastrophy, polar bears in Western Hudson Bay are behaving like the well-fed predators on holiday they are: bears are causing few problems in Churchill and poking around Arviat, seemingly out of curiousity rather than actively stalking prey.

Bears are chased out of Western Hudson Bay communities due to an abundance of caution but so far, no frightening encounters have been reported that I’ve heard about. That’s true elsewhere as well: an uneventful summer for polar bear attacks is good news indeed.

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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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Inuit are concerned about public safety as Davis Strait polar bears numbers increase

An assessment of the health of Davis Strait polar bears by 35 Inuit polar bear experts was made public two weeks ago. Overall, these experts agree that virtually all polar bears they see are healthy and that the population has been growing over the past few decades, so much so that “public safety has become an increasing concern”. Mainstream media have ignored this report, as far as I have seen.

As we await the latest scientific population estimate of Davis Strait polar bears, completed in 2021 but still not publicly available (only a preliminary gov’t report and a summary graphic from the final report have been released, see Dyck et al. 2019, 2021) this new document (Tomaselli et al. 2022) provides the essential information we need. Polar bears are doing well with no notable changes in cub numbers or survival in the last few decades, abundance is up and reflects a real increase in numbers. There are so many polar bears that communities and individuals feel the need to take extra precautions in protecting themselves from bears.

Oh, and ringed seal numbers are way down: that could be a critical bit of information we won’t get from the polar bear academics.

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‘Alone’ and ‘Alone Frozen’ survivor reality show participants were never at risk of a polar bear attack

Spoiler Alert! Participants of the History Channel’s Season 9 ‘Alone’ and its spinoff, ‘Alone: Frozen’ reality shows were never at risk of a polar bear attack despite the marketing hype claiming they were, because coastal Labrador is only ‘polar bear territory’ when pack ice is present offshore, which it wasn’t when the shows were filmed. Shocking, I know!

I happened upon the trailer for the ‘Alone’ series while watching TV one night and the “set in the hunting territory of the mighty polar bear” claim caught my attention. So I watched a few episodes and did some followup. Before the series even ended, there were ads for the spinoff series, ‘Alone: Frozen’, which had even more polar bear hype. Here’s what I discovered–call it a Frivolous Friday post if you like, but I felt it had to be said.

UPDATE Friday 23 September 2022:

The ‘Alone: Frozen’ series concluded last night without a single sighting of a polar bear or even its footprint near the area. In fact, mention of the possibility of a polar bear attack by the participants ceased after the first few episodes, although the ‘narrator’ continued this fiction as part of the storyline. I rest my case.

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Churchill problem polar bear reports for early 2022 have no mention of fat bears or excess sea ice

The first few reports on problem polar bear activity in Churchill are in, posted early this week (two together), starting the last week of July (25-31).

Shore of Wapusk National Park just south of Churchill, 5 August 2022, the back end of a fat bear.

Funny how these reports in recent years (these included) don’t mention the condition of bears the way they used to as recently as 2017 (or the state of the sea ice). I guess it’s so they can’t be used as evidence against the prevailing mantra that western Hudson Bay polar bears that spend the summer onshore are starving because of the lack of ice due to human-caused global warming!

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Polar bear shot after early morning attack on French tourist camping in Svalbard

There was another polar bear attack on Svalbard this morning, similar to others in previous years. As usual, the body condition of the bear was not mentioned (whether fat or thin) and photos of it were not published. The woman survived, the bear did not.

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New paper polar bears attracted to garbage dumps blames lack of sea ice without any evidence

A paper published yesterday discusses polar bears that get into human garbage and cause other problems due to community attractants. Most of the incidents recounted and the issues they’ve raised have been reported by the media and are ones I’ve discussed here over the last few years in detail, including here and here, as well as in my recent book (Crockford 2019).

Churchill dump 2003. Dan Guravich photo, Polar Bears International handout.

All you need to know about the motivation behind the paper comes from the authors’ acknowledgement:

This paper developed from a meeting in Churchill, Manitoba, in autumn 2019 where the issue of dump use by polar bears arose. We thank Dan Cox [a photographer for PBI] for suggesting exploration of this issue and Polar Bears International for arranging this meeting.

So, six months or so after my book came out in March 2019, in which these issues were discussed in detail, polar bear experts decided it was time to write a paper on the topic. The open access paper, by Tom Smith and colleagues (Smith et al. 2022), is accompanied by an online essay published the same day by the lead author and picked up at least one cheer-leading media outlet via Reuters. See what you think.

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Wandering polar bears are the new starving bears falsely blamed on climate change: Déjà vu

I said last year that wandering polar bears appeared to be the new ‘starving’ polar bears that were formerly the go-to victims falsely blamed on lack of ice due to climate change and here we are again. Polar bear specialists and their cheer leaders so seldom disappoint.

Although not one of the Canadian news outlets that reported on the fat polar bear that was shot after unexpectedly showing up on the Gaspé peninsula two weeks ago blamed this incident on global warming, a few days later The Guardian in the UK stepped up.

Of course it did. My own report of the incident is here, from 1 May 2022, in case you missed it (with sea ice charts, as always).

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Fat polar bear killed on the south shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Gaspé Peninsula

A fat polar bear was killed early this morning (Sunday 1 May 2022) near a small town on the north shore of the Gaspé Peninsula, the portion of Quebec that New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after being tracked by wildlife conservation officers since yesterday. Two other sightings were reported in the Gulf earlier in April on the opposite shore, which could possibly have been the same bear.

This is why there are polar bears in my recent sea ice tsunami novel set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in March 2026. Davis Strait polar bears are thriving, having increased in number dramatically since the 1970s, due to hunting bans and abundant harp seals. Until the last few years, Davis Strait polar bears haven’t been spotted this far south in the spring since 1849 (with a few other historical reports even further south in the 1500s). The last time a polar bear was spotted onshore in the Gulf area (and got this much attention) was in late March 2017.

These recent polar bear sightings in the Gulf of St. Lawrence likely reflect a population that’s at its peak size or still increasing. The photo above shows the bear was in excellent condition after feeding heavily on harp seal pups. Unfortunately, from where it ended up, it likely wouldn’t have made it back to the receding pack ice off Labrador in time to return to Davis Strait for the summer.

Excerpt below from the CBC story (‘Polar bear spotted on Gaspé peninsula killed by wildlife officers‘; 30 April 2022), but first you’ll need the map of the area. Charts for sea ice conditions at the time follow.

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Explaining abundant polar bear sightings on the East Coast as an upshot of sea ice loss is absurd

Last week, a senior producer at CBC News, in order to concoct a timely story for ‘Earth Day’, attempted to explain the high number of sightings of polar bears this April in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to the last two years, as a consequence of climate change and its handmaiden, loss of Arctic sea ice.

Title: ‘With an extinction threat looming, no wonder polar bears are at our door — and on the roof: there’s a grim reason why polar bears have been frequently showing up in coastal communities’. CBC News, 23 April 2022

The problem with this narrative is that the East Coast had much reduced sea ice in 2021 and virtually no polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and none in Labrador. There was more ice in 2020 than 2021 but also few bears. This year, ice extent was similar to 2020 for most of the region but polar bear sightings were up considerably.

In fact, the two years with the most sightings and problems with polar bears since 2008 were 2017 and 2018: in 2017, sea ice was exceptionally thick in April (although average in extent) and by June the sea ice was so thick and enduring that the Newfoundland fishing fleet couldn’t get out for spring openings; 2018 was another year of average sea ice extent and had even an even larger number of sightings than 2017, in Newfoundland especially (Crockford 2019:32). This suggests the sea ice vs. polar bear correlation on the East Coast since 2008 – if there even is one – may be the opposite of that stated in the CBC article: less ice usually means fewer bears onshore in Newfoundland and Labrador and more ice often means more bears.

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