Another fat bear onshore in late winter, this time along the Quebec shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (22 March 2017) – and this time, one of the witnesses to the sighting took some great photos. Courtesy CBC News (Polar bear makes rare appearance on Quebec’s Lower North Shore 24 March 2017).
Quotes, location map, and sea ice charts below.
Posted in Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Davis Strait, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, onshore, polar bears, Quebec, sea ice, sightings, spring feeding, winter
Seven polar bears came ashore this week, either passing through or exploring, in Black Tickle, Labrador. It’s not that unusual an occurrence but the take home quote sure is:
“They look really healthy … they have been eating good, these ones have.”
Lucky for them – residents in my novel – EATEN – were not so lucky.
A bear onshore along eastern Hudson Bay late last month was also described as fat.
Quotes from the CBC News report (8 March 2017: “7 polar bears visit stormbound Black Tickle“) below.
Late February is still the dead of winter in the Arctic, a time when most polar bears are at their leanest and out on the sea ice trying to find seals – and that means yesterday’s report of a “very fat” polar bear onshore outside Inukjuak is unusual at face value – but my followup inquiry revealed details that make it even more startling.
At my request, CBC North reporter Priscilla Hwang reached out to the hunter involved, who is the mayor of the community. She was told the incident took place on Saturday 25 February 2017 and the very fat bear in the story was actually a young, subadult female.
Subadults are more likely to be in poorer condition than adults at any time of year, due to their lack of hunting experience and competition with adult males. So to see a young bear that’s very fat before the feeding begins is quite astonishing: it suggests that feeding opportunities out on Hudson Bay have been very good over the winter and/or this bear was a savvy hunter despite her youth.
According to the mayor’s report, this community hasn’t had a bear onshore in nearly 30 years. Polar bears in Hudson Bay travel with the retreating ice to the western and southern shores, so with some exceptions, bears usually only have access to the east coast during winter through spring.
Last winter saw an extraordinary number of reports of bears on shore in winter, most of them causing trouble (see summary here). This Inukjuak sighting is the second I’ve come across this year – the other was in Svalbard (a female with cubs). Whether this new pattern is due to more bears or lack of hunting leading to bears having less fear of people – or a bit of both – it’s not yet possible to say.
So under the circumstances, the mayor of Inukjuak’s decision to kill this bear for the protection of the community seems quite reasonable (given the extensive resources required in Svalbard to drive their problem bears away rather than kill them).
Excerpts from the CBC story, and some maps and charts, are below.
Posted in Life History, Polar bear attacks
Tagged attacks, facts, fat, Hudson Bay, onshore, polar bear, problem bears, spring feeding, subadults, winter
Update to 18 Jan 2017 post: For at least 10 days, officials in Longyearbyen, Svalbard have been trying to keep a particularly persistent female polar bear and her two cubs away from the community. After being chased away last week, Sunday night (22 Jan) the trio appeared again at dog kennels at the edge of town but this time, but this time officials drove them even further south.
Yesterday marked the first report I’ve found for polar bears onshore this winter, in a potentially dangerous repeat of a pattern that has become all-too common in recent years (especially last year) with bear populations booming virtually everywhere (but especially around Svalbard).
This is the leanest time of year for polar bears – fat Arctic seal pups won’t be available for another 2-3 months and meals for polar bears are hard to come by – and that makes the bears especially dangerous.
So, despite the marked lack of sea ice around Svalbard this winter, a female polar bear with two cubs were reported near the community of Longyearbyen (still enduring 24 hours of darkness) – on the west coast of the archipelago (see map above), where sea ice has been virtually non-existent for years (see map below).
It appears these bears traveled overland from ice off the east coast. There is no mention in any of the reports that the bears were thin or in poor body condition, or had so far caused any of the problems for which desperately hungry polar bears are famous. However, one dog-sledding guide had a frightening encounter in the dark in this on-going saga that began over the weekend (details and photos below). Continue reading
Guess which year between 2006 and 2016 had the latest start to freeze-up on Hudson Bay, given that 2012 had the lowest September average and 2007 and 2016 tied for second-lowest (see graph below, from NSIDC), and that sea ice in the Arctic right now is the lowest it’s been for this date since 1979?
If you guessed anything other than 2010, you guessed wrong – in addition, 2006 (not 2016) was second latest.
There is no correlation between Arctic sea ice coverage and freeze-up dates for Western Hudson Bay.
Yet, Polar Bears International (“Save Our Sea Ice”) – who were surely in and around Churchill in 2010 and 2006 watching polar bears – just posted an alarming statement about local conditions, implying that slow freeze-up of Hudson Bay this year is a reflection of the fact that “sea ice is at a record low across the Arctic.”
They also claim that “…the weather is the warmest we’ve ever seen at this time of year.” That may be true, but if so, it is also meaningless with respect to the progress of freeze-up.
Does no one at PBI remember the very late freeze-up of 2010 or 2006? Odd, that.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic, attack, Derocher, fall, fatality, freeze-up, Hudson Bay, Lunn, minimum ice extent, PBI, polar bear, Polar Bears International, population size, problem bears, sea ice, western hudson bay
Week 17 (I’ve been counting) for 31 October – 6 November (Week 1 was 11-17 July):
“Most bears are still out at Cape Churchill.” [see map below]
See previous reports here, and here. Ten-day sea ice animation, CIS.