Category Archives: Polar bear attacks

Two dead in fatal polar bear attack in Alaskan village of Wales on the Bering Strait

Two people tragically died yesterday afternoon after an attack by a polar bear in the village of Wales on the Bering Strait. Few details are available and bad weather apparently hampered officials getting to the village immediately.

As expected, virtually all news reports are implying that a generic ‘lack of sea ice’ can be blamed for the incident. As usual, the specifics of this case show this claim is not only nonsense, but dangerous.

With the loss of sea ice and the ocean staying open later in the year, polar bears have been spending more time on land, which increases the chance of human encounters, said Joseph Jessup McDermott.

Polar bear attacks in winter are almost always associated with a bear that has not been able to resume feeding in the fall. More bears and restricted hunting means more young bears (as well as old bears or sick ones) become food stressed because they can’t compete with big mature males for food. Mature bears often steal any seals that young bears are able to kill, making the youngsters desperate for food.

The Chukchi Sea polar bears are currently thriving and numbers may still be increasing (AC SWG 2018; Conn et al. 2021; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2015, 2018).

More details to follow on this horrific incident as they become available.

UPDATE 18 January 2023, 5:30PM PT: According to an Associated Press account, the victims were a 24 year old woman and her one-year old son: “Summer Myomick of Saint Michael and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, were killed in the attack, Alaska State Troopers said in a statement.”

No more details were provided on the state of the bear involved (sex, age, body condition). Regarding the blame-game, even though recent studies have shown that ringed and bearded seals in the Chukchi Sea are doing very well (Adam et al. 2019; Crawford and Quakenbush 2013; Crawford et al. 2015), Geoff York from Polar Bears International suggests there may not be enough seals for polar bears or the something may be wrong with the sea ice:

In this case, even though there is ice in the Chukchi and northern Bering seas, the quality of that ice is not known that well. More importantly, York said they don’t know what’s going on under the ice — or what the availability of seals and other prey is for polar bears.

The changes are also happening in winter, when people assume they are safe from polar bears being on shore.

Communities may no longer be,” York said.

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Here comes the pack ice for the Canadian East Coast

Davis Strait pack ice is now descending on the Labrador coast. Only slightly later than usual but it looks like there’s plenty of it.

This is the ice that brings polar bears to Newfoundland and southern Labrador (photo above from April 2022). Be careful what you ask for…

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Inuit in Arctic Canada now observing higher numbers of polar bears, says government report

A 2021 publication by the government of Canada released last month called Species at Risk in Nunavut says the region is “now observing higher numbers of polar bears“, and that management goals are “more focused on maintaining or reducing numbers in communities and in sensitive areas (i.e. bird colonies)“. Local Inuit are said to be “concerned about the increasing number of encounters and property damages” caused by polar bears.

Polar bear in Arviat, Nunavut, 3 October 2022. Chris Mikijuniak photo.

Polar bears in Canada are considered a species of ‘special concern’ (COSEWIC 2018), not threatened as they are in the USA. See the map of Nunavut below.

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Polar bear in good condition visits small Cree community 130km from coast of W. Hudson Bay

The remote and isolated Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba was threatened last weekend by a large male polar bear in good condition prowling around but the bear was eventually captured near the dump and released near the coast without incident. No one blamed this wandering bear on climate change.

Another bear visited the community in August 2010, also without incident. See map for location and news report excerpts below.

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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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