W. Hudson Bay polar bear population decline stories are unethical and ignore critical caveats

Canadian government scientists created headline news worldwide last week when they told the media that Western Hudson Bay polar bear numbers appeared to have declined by 27% between 2017 and 2021, based on a survey report that has not been made public. This is called ‘science by press release’. Its practice is rightfully considered unethical, as it is usually associated withpeople promoting scientific ‘findings’ of questionable scientific merit who turn to the media for attention when they are unlikely to win the approval of the professional scientific community.

Not surprisingly, all of the stories stated or implied a strong association between this purported population decline and lack of sea ice due to ‘climate change’. However, sea ice conditions have been particularly good over the last five years–for both freeze-up and breakup dates–calling into question how ‘lack of sea ice’ could possibly be to blame for the apparent decline.

A Reuters story (dated 23 December 2022) admits this is the case and included another critical caveat that only one news outlet I saw bothered to mention, which happened to be BBC News:

Scientists cautioned a direct link between the population decline and sea ice loss in Hudson Bay wasn’t yet clear, as four of the past five years have seen moderately good ice conditions. Instead, they said, climate-caused changes in the local seal population might be driving bear numbers down.

For example, an Associated Press story published the day before (22 December 2022), picked up by many other outlets, did not include these critical pieces of information about recent good sea ice conditions and possible declines in seal abundance.

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Happy Solstice – it’s all uphill from here!

On the longest night of the year, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with hope and good cheer. The sun will return and the struggle for good science will continue.

Warmest wishes to all my readers and supporters around the world.

Susan

Polar bears of SE Greenland get shorefast ice necessary to hunt seals: not so unique after all

The 234 or so polar bears inhabiting the SE tip of Greenland, said to be genetically and ecologically unique because they are “surviving without ice“, have been experiencing sea ice formation along the shoreline this month just like other bears across the Arctic. Recall that shorefast ice formation attracts seals in the fall, which polar bears hunt successfully, and the following spring (April/May) provide a platform for ringed seals to give birth to their pups, which polar bears eat with gay abandon.

The photo above was taken by Kristin Laidre in March 2016: a bear this fat at the end of winter (i.e. before ringed seals are born in the spring) is living in productive habitat.

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No evidence for BBC claim that Churchill is simply getting too warm for polar bears

Another pronouncement from conservation activists at Polar Bears International taken without a single check of facts makes the BBC look ineffective and gullible.

The photo above of a ‘green dot’ bear was taken 10 November 2022 by a Churchill resident. Bears released from the ‘polar bear jail’ when there is enough sea ice for them to resume hunting are marked with a green dot.

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Arctic Report: primary productivity still high & sea ice flatline continues despite warmer temperatures

NOAAs annual Arctic Report Card is, for the most part, a valiant effort to turn good and ambiguous news into harbingers of climate change disaster. Primary productivity is up across most of the region (good news for wildlife) and despite Arctic temperatures being “twice as high” as the rest of the world in recent years, the summer sea ice ‘death spiral’ has failed to materialize.

Oddly, there is no bad news about polar bears (last mention was 2014). However, the media were told that the few hundred sea birds that died this year in the enormous Bering/Chukchi Sea region over the four months of summer in 2022 is a portend of climate change catastrophe–even though the authors of the NOAA report admit they have no conclusive evidence to explain the phenomenon. However, here are also some honest figures that are quite illuminating.

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Polar bear habitat update: Winter conditions well on their way across the Arctic except in Svalbard

December is late fall in the Arctic: winter conditions are gearing up but are not in full swing everywhere. Sea ice is developing quickly over Hudson Bay and moving slowly towards the Bering Sea but the Svalbard archipelago is still devoid of pack ice.

Such conditions north of Norway have existed most years since 2005: it’s certainly not a new development for Svalbard to be free of surrounding pack ice in December (although there was lots of ice in 2019 and 2021 by late November). This means traditional denning areas on the eastern islands again cannot be used by pregnant polar bear females, because they must be ensconced in their dens by at least late November or so.

Some seem to think this is a calamity: that such ‘loss of habitat’ is a huge concern for the survival of the subpopulation, if not the entire species. However, the same conditions existed in 2011 and did not result in a dramatic decline in the population as measured in 2015 (Aars et al. 2017) because the bears knew how to respond. They have apparently moved north to make maternity dens on the sea ice or east to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in Russia (Aars 2015). These areas are still within the Barents Sea subpopulation boundaries and researchers have known for two decades that bears have moved around within it (Andersen et al. 2012; Derocher 2005; Maurizen et al. 2002).

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Donors’ names chosen for characters in my new novel

I have selected three people out of the list of 120 fabulous supporters who donated funds towards publication of my new polar bear evolution book, to have their names given to a character in my next science-based novel.

Two have decided to remain anonymous, so you will have to try and find their names in the thriller when it comes out.

However, the third proud winner is Ned Komar.

Congratulations to all three and thank you again, everyone, for your most generous support.

warmest regards to all, Susan.

Five years ago today, activist scientists tried to silence me: I’m still here but I need your help

On 29 November 2017, I awoke to find derogatory articles featuring me and my work splashed across newspapers worldwide, part of a coordinated effort to promote a paper published in the journal BioScience. More followed. The paper was a vile attempt by 14 activist scientists to silence me and others, assisted in their unethical attack by an enthusiastic media. But it didn’t work.

I’m still here, in part because of your support, both intellectual and financial. I’ve continued to effectively challenge the baseless rhetoric that polar bears are helpless victims of human-caused global warming by providing fully referenced information without climate fear-mongering. I’ve run this blog for ten years, written numerous scientific reports, a peer-reviewed paper, and a raft of entertaining and informative books.

Now I need a bit more help.

I’ve decided to use this occasion to kick-start a donation drive to help cover production costs of my new polar bear evolution book. In many ways, your enthusiastic support over the years has led me to write this book: the complete story of polar bear evolution, including the role of hybridization, but without the baffling scientific jargon. It will put everything we know about polar bears into evolutionary context–not just the when and where but the why and how.

Nothing like this exists and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I’m on track for publication in early 2023.

I’m asking those of you with the means to help, to assist me in getting this important book across the finish line. Details below.

UPDATE 1 December 2022: GOAL REACHED! What an amazing community this is–$5210 raised in two days. I am truly grateful for your generosity and moral support. Your donations will ensure that this polar bear evolution book gets published quickly and looks professional. Heartfelt thanks to all who participated. I will announce the winners of the special incentive (see below) next Tuesday, 6 December.

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Polar bear specialist calls Hudson Bay freeze-up ‘late’ yet bears were moving offshore 2 weeks ago

Predictably, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher has finally posted a tracking map of the Western Hudson Bay bears his team has fitted with collars and eartags–two weeks after bears were released from Churchill’s polar bear jail, which is the local signal that there is enough sea ice for bears to leave shore. As I reported two weeks ago, release of jailed bears happened this year on 10 November. And as I predicted in that post, by waiting so long after that event to post his map, Derocher can make it seem to his naive followers on Twitter that the bears are just starting to leave now (the last map he posted was on 11 November, when none of his bears had moved). He reinforces this by calling WH freeze-up “late”, when by all objective measures (including local informants reporting bears on the ice) it was as early as it had been in the 1980s (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017).

Recall that fall is the second-most important feeding season for polar bears, due to the fact that seals are strongly attracted to newly-forming sea ice. It’s their chance to regain some or all of the weight lost over the summer, before the long winter fast begins (while bears indeed hunt when they can, they are not often successful during the depths of the Arctic winter: most bears are at their lowest weight by March).

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Eastern Canadian Arctic has much more sea ice than usual while Svalbard polar bears deal with less

Svalbard is still ice-free this fall, which it has been rather consistently for at least ten years but the amount of sea ice greater than ‘normal’ in the Eastern Canadian Arctic at this date is something to behold. Yet contrary to predictions, polar bears in Svalbard are thriving.

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