In the news today: “Nunavut Draft Plan Says There Are Actually Too Many Polar Bears In Territory” (CTV News via The Canadian Press, Bob Weber, 12 November 2018).
Polar bear eating seaweed near Churchill, Manitoba (November 2012). Lorraine Brandson photo.
From the Canadian Press story:
“There are too many polar bears in parts of Nunavut and climate change hasn’t yet affected any of them, says a draft management plan from the territorial government that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking.
The proposed plan — which is to go to public hearings in Iqaluit on Tuesday — says that growing bear numbers are increasingly jeopardizing public safety and it’s time Inuit knowledge drove management policy.
“Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,” says the document, the result of four years of study and public consultation.”
I’ve noted previously that there were two fatal polar bear attacks in Hudson Bay this summer. Both of them happened outside local communities and both happened early during the ice-free period (when bears would have been onshore for only a few weeks). Neither incident can be reasonably blamed on lack of sea ice, an extended ice-free period, or lack of management of problem polar bears within or near communities. The bears involved in the August attack were described as being in good condition.
Update 13 November 2018: See The Guardian‘s take on this story, by a different writer. Despite potential to talk to other polar bear specialists about this issue, only Derocher is quoted. Is no one else talking? “Polar bear numbers in Canadian Arctic pose threat to Inuit, controversial report says” (The Guardian, 13 November 2018).
Update 14 November 2018: See a new CBC story on Inuit perspectives on this issue. “Nunavut community says Inuit lives need to be protected over polar bear population” (CBC News, 14 November 2018).
Posted in Conservation Status, Polar bear attacks, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged attacks, climate change, Derocher, Foxe Basin, Hudson Bay, hunting, Inuit, management, polar bear, problems, sea ice, too many bears
Ryrkaypiy on the Chukotka coast of Russia is similar to Churchill, Manitoba: both human settlements are of similar size and are close to where polar bears wait for sea ice to form in the fall and where some pregnant females make their maternity dens in preparation for the birth of cubs over the winter (Durner et al. 2018:xxii). Sea ice advances from the west along the Chukotka shore and bears cannot move offshore to resume hunting until the sea ice reaches the village of Ryrkaypiy. According to the Siberian Times, the village is again having problems with local polar bears, as they have for the last several years (including 2013).
“At least twelve polar bears are inside the village, with some of them paying daily visits.
The rest are within three kilometres away.
‘We have to constantly scare the bears away with signal rockets, so far thanks to efforts of the Bear Patrol we manage well’, said acting head of Ryrkaypiy Yevgenia Malakhova.
The large group of bears started to form a month ago when they came close to Cape Kozhevnikov.
‘Now the bears moved close to the village, they also walk back and forth all along the shore line. The animals are irritated because they are ready to leave the area and start hunting in the deep sea, but ice is too thin’, said Malakhova.
All 760 locals are aware of the dangerous situation and take extreme care when moving around the place.”
More below, including map and ice chart.
Posted in Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged attractants, carcasses, Chukchi Sea, Chukotka, Churchill, polar bear, problem bears, Russian, sea ice, Wrangel Island
Churchill, Manitoba is proud of its management of problem polar bears and rightly so. But it took time and money to implement the solutions that allowed Churchill to function as it does today, and that should be a lesson for other Arctic communities that have only really started to have problems with polar bears in recent years.
For those who want to understand the problems facing other communities, including Arviat (formerly “Eskimo Point”), a town 260 km north of Churchill. Arviat has a population more than three times the size of Churchill and has been having significant problems with bears since about 2007. I’ve made an excerpt of an excellent paper written by Ian Stirling and colleagues that was published back in 1977 (Stirling et al. 1977).
It describes in detail the problems Churchill had with polar bears in the 1960s and 70s when bear numbers were on the rise — and the various steps that were taken to try and resolve them (even by the time the paper was written, not all of them had been adequately resolved, see Kearney 1989). It’s a fascinating read — see it here.
‘The rules are taking over Inuit tradition and the bears are taking over Inuit. We’re just watching in the distance, afraid of these bears because they’re free to do whatever they want.’ says Brian Aglukark, after two fatal polar bear attacks this summer (CBC, 24 September 2018).
Here’s an excerpt (my bold): continue reading
Just in from NunatsiaqNews (6 September 2018): The polar bears that killed Foxe Basin resident Darryl Kaunak were in good condition, as were the bears who approached the group of hunters after the fact. And the bear that mauled Arviat resident Aaron Gibbons in early July was an adult male in “fair” condition, according to necropsy results.
In all, no evidence that lack of sea ice was to blame. Quotes below.
Starvation due to natural causes is the leading cause of death for polar bears and loss of body condition (getting thinner) is therefore the first symptom of impending death for virtually all polar bears that die naturally. However, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher claims that loss of body condition is also the first symptom of climate change for polar bears.
But how do you tell the difference between polar bears made thin by man-made climate change and those who are thin due to natural causes?
You can’t. Even a necropsy will not be conclusive because there are so many natural reasons for a bear to lose weight — and even starve to death — that’s it’s virtually impossible to say that any thin bear is skinny due to a lack of sea ice.
Emaciated polar bears like the one above from Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic,1 captured on camera in August 2017, are being used to promote the idea that polar bears are already dying of starvation due to climate change. That’s a big white lie, as the headline above suggests: seven months later, National Geographic has admitted as much. Here I show why it could not have been true in the first place (with references from the scientific literature).
UPDATE: 29 August 2018: See my op-ed in the National Post (29 August 2018) and the GWPF video below on this issue:
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged body condition, climate change, emaciated, facts, mauling, mortality, National Geographic, natural, Nicklen, polar bear, sea ice, skinny bears, starvation, symptoms
A man from Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay) has been killed by a polar bear and her cub, and his two hunting companions injured. The party was found today by a search and rescue team on White Island, southeast of Naujaat after they were reported overdue home on Sunday. A total of five bears were destroyed at the scene: the female and her cub responsible for the attack, plus three other bears attracted to the site and still present when rescuers arrived. This is the second fatal polar bear attack in Nunavut this summer (see previous post here). A very sad day indeed.
Excerpts from news reports below and more details to follow on this incident as they become available. Map below shows location of Naujaat, with White Island about 100 km southeast (off Southampton Island):
UPDATE 6 September 2018: According to examination of the bodies, all of the bears involved (apparently only 4, not 5) were in good condition. See post here and news announcement here.
According to the CBC (28 August 2018), five polar bears were destroyed following the attack [my bold]: