Posted onApril 23, 2023|Comments Off on Netflix polar bear star dies in Svalbard days after being tranquilized; her orphaned cub is shot
Early in the morning on Good Friday (7 April), a mature polar bear sow with a cub at heal was chased with snowmobiles away from a recreation area used by locals on the west coast but drowned after she escaped into the water. Her cub, likely a yearling male, attacked authorities trying to retrieve her body and was shot.
Posted onApril 19, 2023|Comments Off on ‘Less ice means more conflicts with polar bears’ narrative not supported by scientific evidence
In another failed prediction, a new study on the number of polar bears killed in self-defense in Svalbard, Norway did not find the expected correlation with lack of sea ice or more tourists (Vongraven et al. 2023). Contrary to expectations, fewer bears were actually killed in self-defence as sea ice declined between 1987 and 2019.
Money Quote from the abstract:
“…ice cover had no significant impact on the odds for a [polar bear] kill.”
“Poor ice conditions for polar bears at Svalbard this year. Low ice will make tough hunting conditions this coming spring. Time to plan for more human-bear conflicts unless conditions change.” [13 Feb 2023 tweet, my bold]
Posted onMarch 30, 2023|Comments Off on Southern Labrador coastal landscape dominated by fat polar bears in March
Recent reports out of southern Labrador highlight how common it is to find polar bears onshore at this time of year. The small coastal community of Black Tickle seems to take the prize for the highest number of incidents and sightings but Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the somewhat surprising contender. [see correction below] Photo below is from Black Tickle.
Since early March, polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador have been common. The bears, of course, have come south on the Labrador Sea pack ice looking for fat newborn harp seals, which are now so abundant in the region that nearly a year’s worth of food could probably be consumed in a week or so. It appears that already well-fed bears may look around for what else could be added to their menu or just need a break to digest between meals. Photos of some of the bears sighted are all in good or excellent condition, and few of the animals seem to be intent on causing real trouble for locals–a far cry from the bear that wandered off the ice into Wales, Alaska earlier this year and killed a young mother and her infant son.
Posted onMarch 15, 2023|Comments Off on Birthing season for harp seals in Labrador Sea just in time to feed hungry polar bears
The main birthing period for NW Atlantic harp seals has arrived. Local populations of ringed and bearded seal pups will soon follow but in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Canada, the pupping season for harp seals that is usually in progress by this time has likely been redirected north due to lack of suitable ice conditions. Sea ice off Labrador and Newfoundland is in good condition and this is where the vast majority of the global population go to give birth (ca. 7.6 million vs. 1.5 million in the White Sea and 434,000 in east Greenland).
Posted onMarch 10, 2023|Comments Off on Polar bear sightings and sea ice conditions in Newfoundland & Labrador 2023 vs. 2017
Conservation officials issued an alert to residents of coastal communities to be aware of polar bears coming ashore over the last week in northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador, after a woman photographed a bear outside her home on Tuesday morning (7 March 2023). Since no bears in this subpopulation are tracked with satellite radio collars, we have no idea if there are a few dozen bears — or a few hundred of them — hunting on the ice and available to come ashore when the opportunity arises.
Posted onFebruary 17, 2023|Comments Off on Low mid-winter polar bear habitat in Barents Sea spawns warnings of more human-bear conflicts
There’s abundant sea ice in the Bering, Greenland and Labrador Seas, although less than usual in the Barents Sea because strong winds drove the ice north. Any time there is a bit less sea ice than usual the catastrophists begin caterwauling but this time the rhetoric is a little different.
Posted onFebruary 6, 2023|Comments Off on Polar bear that mauled to death Alaskan mother and baby was an adult male in poor condition
The veterinarian who examined the bear responsible for the fatal attack in Wales, Alaska, three weeks ago said the bear was an “older” adult male in poor physical condition: the most dangerous bear for anyone to encounter. Recall the armed cruise ship guard who was ambushed and mauled by a desperately thin bear in July 2018 in the Svalbard archipelago–and only survived because his colleague was able to shoot the bear quickly. In this most recent attack, Summer Myomick and her 1-year-old son, Clyde Ongtowasruk didn’t stand a chance as they were ambushed in a driving snowstorm just steps from the safety of the community school they had just left.
Results of a complete necropsy won’t be available for months. Quotes from the news report below.
Posted onJanuary 18, 2023|Comments Off on 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.
Posted onJanuary 4, 2023|Comments Off on 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 Riskin 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 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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