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 onAugust 12, 2022|Comments Off on ‘Alone’ and ‘Alone Frozen’ survivor reality show participants were never at risk of a polar bear attack
Spoiler Alert! Participants of the History Channel’s Season 9 ‘Alone’ and its spinoff, ‘Alone: Frozen’ reality shows were never at risk of a polar bear attack despite the marketing hype claiming they were, because coastal Labrador is only ‘polar bear territory’ when pack ice is present offshore, which it wasn’t when the shows were filmed. Shocking, I know!
I happened upon the trailer for the ‘Alone’ series while watching TV one night and the “set in the hunting territory of the mighty polar bear” claim caught my attention. So I watched a few episodes and did some followup. Before the series even ended, there were ads for the spinoff series, ‘Alone: Frozen’, which had even more polar bear hype. Here’s what I discovered–call it a Frivolous Friday post if you like, but I felt it had to be said.
UPDATE Friday 23 September 2022:
The ‘Alone: Frozen’ series concluded last night without a single sighting of a polar bear or even its footprint near the area. In fact, mention of the possibility of a polar bear attack by the participants ceased after the first few episodes, although the ‘narrator’ continued this fiction as part of the storyline. I rest my case.
Posted onAugust 8, 2022|Comments Off on Polar bear shot after early morning attack on French tourist camping in Svalbard
There was another polar bear attack on Svalbard this morning, similar to others in previous years. As usual, the body condition of the bear was not mentioned (whether fat or thin) and photos of it were not published. The woman survived, the bear did not.
Posted onApril 4, 2022|Comments Off on 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.
Posted onAugust 17, 2021|Comments Off on Foxe Basin polar bear attack victim recalls repeated attacks and being bitten on the neck
A few more details have emerged on the polar bear attack in Foxe Basin last week (Tuesday 10 August) in which three Inuit residents were mauled near the community of Sanirajak, Nunavut (formerly Hall Beach) and had to be airlifted to hospital.
One of the victims, Elijah Kaernerk, has finally recovered enough to explain what happened: he surprised the bear feeding on a carcass of something near his cabin and it came after him. The other two, both women, must have come to see what the noise was about and the bear went after them too. The bear was apparently shot by other members of the community after the attack but no mention was made of its condition, which leads me to believe it was probably not starving.
Posted onAugust 11, 2021|Comments Off on Foxe Basin polar bear attack leaves three people seriously mauled, airlifted to hospital
The attack happened yesterday afternoon (10 August) about 2:30 PM local time near the community of Sanirajak (listed as Hall Beach on ice charts), which is in Foxe Basin, Nunavut (population about 800). There are few details yet on the human victims of the mauling other than that they were two women and a man. All three were badly injured. They are now in hospital and expected to survive.
It appears the bear died as a consequence of the attack but there has been no mention of its condition, age, etc., or the circumstances of the attack. There is no ethical reason for blaming this broad-daylight attack on lack of sea ice (although some will try), since there is abundant ice in the region at the moment, as the charts below show. Expect an update as the story unfolds.
Posted onAugust 4, 2021|Comments Off on Polar bear attack in Greenland gratuitously blamed on recent ‘heat wave’
A polar bear bit the hand of a member of a film crew near the Danish military base of Daneborg in East Greenland on Monday (2 August) and predictably, this has been blamed on recent warm temperatures in the region. There is no specific evidence of cause and effect, of course. The news outlet reporting the incident cites some non-specified ‘experts’ as providing the generic ‘warming makes polar bears starve or behave badly’ excuse that makes no sense in this particular instance.
Here is what the news report had to say (3 Aug), my emphasis:
Early on Monday, while the sun does not set in summer at this latitude, the bear poked his head through a poorly closed window of a research station where the documentary team was staying about 400 metres from the small base of Daneborg.
A Danish Arctic military unit based in Greenland said the bear bit the hand of one of the three male team members before they used warning pistols to force the animal to flee.
Transported first to Daneborg, the injured documentary maker had to be evacuated to Akureyri, a town in Iceland.
Already blamed for five incidents until now, the bear returned again later in the morning and then again overnight Monday to Tuesday when it broke a window of the research station before fleeing.
“The local authorities have from now on categorised the bear as ‘problematic,’ which allows for it to be shot dead, if it returns,” the Danish military unit said.
Any bear causing problems in this region would have just come off the ice, since three weeks ago there was plenty of ice available offshore a bit to the north (see chart below for 7 July). Virtually all bears are at their best condition at this time of year, except for young, inexperienced bears or those that are sick or injured. Warm temperatures would not be causing any bear to be desperately looking for food unless it was desperate for some other reason (sick, injured, or an under-nourished young bear). However, nothing is stated in this report about the physical condition of the bear, its approximate age or its sex, even though it has been seen multiple times. Young male bears, for example, are far more likely to become problems near communities than any other age class (Wilder et al. 2017), because these bears have to compete with older, larger bears to keep whatever seals they manage to kill.
Note the reliance on un-named ‘experts’ at the end of the same news report:
Experts say the retreat of the ice pack, the hunting ground of the polar bear, forces them to stay on land more often and they find it harder to find food and sustain a species already considered vulnerable.
Although still rare, the close encounters with humans are increasing as bears more frequently approach inhabited areas in their search for food, environmental protection officers say.
What generic pap! The community has a problem bear on its hands, a situation which northern communities across the Arctic must contend with on a continual basis. Even if there was ice offshore, there would be the possibility of bears coming ashore and causing problems.
Wilder, J.M., Vongraven, D., Atwood, T., Hansen, B., Jessen, A., Kochnev, A., York, G., Vallender, R., Hedman, D. and Gibbons, M. 2017. Polar bear attacks on humans: implications of a changing climate. Wildlife Society Bulletin, in press. DOI: 10.1002/wsb.783 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wsb.783/full
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Posted onMarch 2, 2021|Comments Off on Polar bear attack in Svalbard: victim survives, polar bear does not
A man was attacked from behind this morning by a small male polar bear on the east coast of Svalbard, Norway, where there is abundant sea ice. His companion shot the bear and the victim escaped with minor head injuries. Most bears are very hungry at this time of year because the seal pupping season has not yet begun.
Young bears are extremely dangerous and the most likely to attack people (Crockford 2019; Wilder et al. 2017): a three year old male fatally attacked a camper in August 2020 just outside Longyearbyen, Svalbard, an incident unfairly blamed on lack of sea ice (Crockford 2021).
UPDATE 3 March 2021:Results of an autopsy conducted on the polar bear killed yesterday revealed it was a 6 year old male that weighed only 231 kg, which is less than usual for an adult bear later in the season but likely typical for a relatively young bear at the end of winter before seal pups are born. See quote from a Norwegian polar bear specialist below [my bold]:
Jon Aars, an institute researcher who has spent many years studying bears in Svalbard, told Svalbardposten the vast majority of bears ages six to 15 will weigh between 350 and 450 kilograms in April, when the spring hunting season is typically at its peak.
“It may have been aggressive because it was thin,” he said. “It is likely. The thinner they are, the greater the chance that they are dangerous. He is at an age where he is not frequently considered as a problem bear – it is mostly among the younger or the very old who have problems.”
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