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 2, 2022|Comments Off on A ‘mass exodus’ of polar bears from Alaska to Russia has taken place, local residents claim
An article in a UK newspaper yesterday contains a claim made by local residents that polar bears which used to hang around Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow) in western Alaska, are ‘moving to Russia’ (i.e. the Chukchi Sea) in a ‘mass exodus’. It’s certainly possible but if so, it should come as a surprise to no one and is good news for polar bears.
If the allegation is upheld by scientific evidence, polar bears will not have been pushed out of Alaska by lack of summer sea ice (i.e. ‘forced to migrate’) but rather pulled into the Chukchi Sea by abundant food resources that did not exist when summer ice cover was more extensive. It’s a big difference and it speaks to the benefits of less summer sea ice that no one wants to discuss.
Moreover, moving temporarily to where conditions suit them best is what polar bears do all the time: it’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a prominent feature of their biology (Crockford 2019).
Posted onJuly 18, 2021|Comments Off on As much Beaufort Sea polar bear habitat at mid-July 2021 as there was in 1982
Beaufort Sea ice coverage is about average for this time of year, again failing to decline in lock-step with other Arctic regions. Will there be lots of fat bears onshore like there was in 2019? Only time will tell.
Posted onMay 30, 2021|Comments Off on Activist heads explode as USFWS says oil activities pose minimal risk to polar bears in AK
Apparently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under Joe Biden agrees with my conclusion that oil company activities in Alaska pose minimal risk to polar bears (Crockford 2019, 2020, 2021). Although this ruling is not yet final, they have proposed that oil exploration and extraction activities on the North Slope of Alaska can proceed over the next five years.
After noting that no major offshore oil spills have ever taken place in the Alaskan portion of the Beaufort Sea (see map below) and that all spills to date have been on land with no impact on polar bears, the proposed rule in the 200+ page assessment states:
Posted onAugust 18, 2020|Comments Off on Risk to Alaskan polar bear cubs from oil exploration in coastal Wildlife Refuge is small
A bill recently introduced to US Congress (30 July 2020) is supposedly meant to “safeguard the Beaufort Sea polar bear’s denning habitat”. However, the bill is named the “Polar Bear Cub Survival Act”, which tells us this is an appeal to emotions rather than a call for rational decision-making. In fact, few Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear cubs are born on land in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the risks to them from oil exploration is not overwhelming.
Despite a modest decline in summer sea ice since 1979, only about half of Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear females currently make their dens on the sea ice in late fall. Recent research confirms results from older studies that show denning females in Alaska are highly tolerant of the kind of disturbance associated with oil exploration and few dens are found more than about 1 km from the shore. This emotion-laden bill is not really about protecting polar bears: it’s a political move aimed at preventing oil exploration along the coast of Alaska after previous efforts failed. It comes ahead of an announcement today (18 August 2020) that the White House will begin to auction off leases for oil drilling in the ANWR.
Posted onJune 29, 2020|Comments Off on Polar bear habitat in Canada and eastern Alaska compared at end of June 2012-2020
Here is a quick compare and contrast of sea ice habitat for polar bears in Canada and the Southern Beaufort region of eastern Alaska near the end of June, 2012-2020.
Similarities between Hudson Bay ice/open water in the sea ice charts below are striking. Ice cover at the end of June shown in these charts since 2012 reinforces the fact, documented in the peer-reviewed literature, that there has been no continued declining trend in dates of sea ice breakup for Western and Southern Hudson Bay since 1998 at least (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017; Lunn et al. 2016). WH bears are still on the ice.
Fat healthy polar bear male at Kaktovik, Alaska in the Southern Beaufort Sea, September 2019, Ed Boudreau photo, with permission.
You can’t get much more over the top than these statements from Amstrup today but read carefully: it’s either opinion or factual aspects of polar bear life (“we know that the bears aren’t feeding”) made to sound like new, terrifying developments that can be blamed on climate change. Continue reading →
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Posted onSeptember 1, 2019|Comments Off on Walruses climbing cliffs and falling off them are natural events: 1994 video from Alaska
US Fish and Wildlife officials in 1994 explain walruses falling to their deaths from a cliff at Cape Pierce in the southern Bering Sea (a haulout for adult males during the ice-free season). Explanation? Overcrowding (too many walruses)!
Large herds onshore are a sign of population health, not climate change, and walruses have come ashore in the Chukchi Sea during the ice-free season in summer and/or fall for more than 100 years (Crockford 2014; Fischbach et al. 2016; Lowrey 1985). Those are the relevant scientific facts.
Fischbach, A.S., Kochnev, A.A., Garlich-Miller, J.L., and Jay, C.V. 2016. Pacific walrus coastal haulout database, 1852–2016—Background report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1108. http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161108. The online database is found here.
Lowry, L. 1985. “Pacific Walrus – Boom or Bust?” Alaska Fish & Game Magazine July/August: 2-5. pdfhere.
MacCracken, J.G., Beatty, W.S., Garlich-Miller, J.L., Kissling, M.L and Snyder, J.A. 2017. Final Species Status Assessment for the Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), May 2017 (Version 1.0). US Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK. Pdf here (8.6 mb).
Posted onAugust 12, 2019|Comments Off on Media and USGS biologist sensationalize recent report of a polar bear encounter in Alaska
It’s been a slow summer for polar bear news to hype, so we shouldn’t be surprised that a local report that polar bears this summer have descended on the town of Kaktovik, Alaskaone week earlier than 2017 has morphed into an international story that makes a 2016 research report sound like this year’s news, with headlines trumpeting: “polar bear encounters are increasing” due to a longer open water period. Nevertheless, it was reported just two weeks ago that Alaska has not had a polar bear attack since 1993.
This is a particularly blatant example of how the media skew polar bear ‘news’ for public consumption, aided by scientists with a particular message to sell. Not surprisingly, a number of essential facts have been left out of this sensationized account, in part because the polar bear specialist the media consulted left those facts out of his statement. This is the sort of bias displayed by polar bear specialists that I discuss in my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.