Category Archives: Polar bear attacks

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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Whaling crews and their encounters with polar bears and sea ice in 17th century Svalbard

A new paper published today by Dagomar Degroot is a long but interesting historical account about sea ice and whaling in the 1600s around Svalbard that includes some details on interactions of whalers with polar bears (Figure 4 from the paper copied below). These were the early days of whaling in the Arctic: the wholesale slaughter of whales and polar bears didn’t happen until the 1800s.

The paper is open access, so free to download but I’ve copied the abstract and a short excerpt here.

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Newfoundland polar bear sighting updates and video

Here is a Youtube video of the incident I wrote about on Tuesday, of the bear that climbed up on an elderly woman’s house in St. Anthony last Sunday and then confronted her when she opened the door.

Statements from local officials included with a follow-up news report of the incident confirms that there were indeed no polar bear sightings along the Labrador coast in 2020 and 2021 and few (if any) along the Newfoundland coast: it wasn’t just a case of reports not making the news. In addition, it also appears that sea ice conditions this year brought an abundance of harp seal pups to the waters off southern Labrador and Newfoundland, which may mean that pregnant harp seals were giving birth further north for the past two years and the Davis Strait bears were simply staying with them.

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More fat polar bear sightings around homes on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula

Two recent incidents really remind me of the opening scene in my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN, and this time both were captured on film. They involved bears in good physical condition and luckily, no one has been hurt. There is still sea ice off the Northern Peninsula, which has brought the bears from the north.

On Sunday (10 April) in St. Anthony, a woman was alerted by her dog to what she though was someone on the front porch and found herself literally face to face with a polar bear when she opened the door; it then hopped up on her roof. The next day, in Goose Cove, a woman watched two bears (probably a female with a two year old male cub) explore the outside of a neighbour’s house and then walk across her driveway.

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Another polar bear on Fogo, this time on the south shore as sea ice surrounds the island

On Friday, 8 April, a polar bear was photographed on the south coast of Fogo Island, Newfoundland at a time when sea ice surrounded the offshore island. The bear, spotted near North Side Road near Stag Harbour, was non-threatening to the point of being totally chilled out, but attracted enough human attention to cause traffic congestion. Another sighting a little more than a week ago near Tilting on the east side of the island could possibly have involved the same bear.

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Polar bear attempted to break down front door of house in Newfoundland with people inside

A frightening incident just after midnight on Sunday left a woman and her daughter on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland shaken when a polar bear tried to break down their front door. Luckily for them, the bear was not starving and therefore not persistent: it soon stopped without doing much damage and neighbours were able to drive it away from the house. Again, the premise of my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN, is that the bear could have gotten into the house if it had really been motivated by hunger to do so. And what if that had happened and there were no neighbours to call for help?

There is still abundant ice around the northern Peninsula (see below), and gov’t officials are warning residents to be wary of other bears reported in the region. A CBC story on the incident quotes local wildlife officials as saying they “generally receive between 30 and 60 calls about polar bears annually. There have been 10 this year so far.” However, as I’ve pointed out previously, it appears this has only been true since 2012 or so: lots of bears visiting Newfoundland and Labrador in the spring is a relatively new phenomenon.

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Newfoundland polar bear sighting two days ago: why my novel was set on Fogo Island in March

On 29 March, there was a sighting of a polar bear on Fogo Island near the community of Tilting that prompted an official warning to residents. Although this bear caused no problems so far, that hasn’t always been the case and it’s a useful reminder that this is why I set my polar bear attack thriller EATEN in this location, at this time of year. If you haven’t read it, or given it as a gift, now might be the perfect time! In Canada here and the UK here.

From a review of EATEN by polar bear-human interaction specialist Doug Clark (June 2016):

Susan Crockford has not only written a fun novel that gets readers thinking, she has probably done polar bear conservation a real service. Because of how politicized polar bears have become as symbols of climate change, fiction is the only arena where one can really present this kind of scenario right now.

Sea ice conditions off Newfoundland on 28 March:

Unpacking the claim that photos from 1950 are Soviet soldiers feeding ‘starving’ polar bears

You may have seen this one before: a photo from 1950 of Soviet soldiers feeding polar bears sweetened condensed milk from a tank. There are others, taken about the same time.

Let’s look at the claims being promoted regarding these photos a little more critically.

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