Five years worth of sea ice maps for the same date is hard to come by in this country, since the Canadian Ice Service does not archive their daily sea ice maps. However, due to some forethought, I have at hand ice maps going back to 2012 for the longest day of the year for Canada and archives for other regions provide similar perspective at the solstice.
Few photos of polar bears in June likely exist – too early for most bears to come ashore and the ice too unstable for humans to be offshore [photo above is dated March].
Compare the five maps for Canada and eastern Alaska below. Notice the differences for Hudson Bay: it may seem ironic, but 2012 (which had the lowest September minimum since 1979 due to an August storm) had the most typical Hudson Bay breakup/melt pattern compared to previous years. [Keep in mind this recent post about how much ice can remain even when almost none is visible on the ice maps]
In many regions, polar bear hunting efforts are seldom successful after early June because young-of-the-year seal pups have taken to the water to feed, which means the only prey still on the ice are predator-savvy adults and subadults that have an easy time escaping in the rapidly breaking up ice fields. Bears that come ashore in June likely are not missing much – a little less ice than usual at this time of year is not going to make much difference.
Overall, despite doom and gloom predictions we heard in March 2016 (“wintertime extent hits another record low”), sea ice extent (courtesy NSIDC) at 20 June 2016 was the same at this date as it was in 2010 and 2012 at this time of year – which essentially marks the end of the primary feeding period for polar bears (except for those that live in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, where seals give birth a bit later in the spring).
And did polar bears die in droves due to conditions in 2010 or 2012, in any subpopulation around the Arctic affected by low sea ice levels? No, they did not. In fact, the subpopulation that had the most recent survey done (Svalbard portion of the Barents Sea – 2015) was not only found to be thriving but numbers had increased markedly (42%) over 2004 levels. Now that’s resilience!
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Barents Sea, breakup, Canada, facts, Hudson Bay, polar bear, record low, resilience, sea ice, seals, solstice, Svalbard
Although there are only two confirmed polar bear X grizzly hybrids (see recent posts here and here) – one in 2006 and a 2nd generation back cross in 2010 – there have been a few other unconfirmed sightings and/or hunters reports in addition to the Arviat animal shot last week, but how many?
In a CBC radio interview today (27 May 2016), polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher claimed there have now been 9 polar bear/grizzly hybrids reported in Canada (with the Arviat animal shot last week being the 9th).
I think I’ve tracked down the details on those six unconfirmed Canadian sightings, plus another from Alaska. But as you will see, some of the reports are so vague it’s hard to know whether these are the animals Derocher counts as hybrids or not.
Posted in Conservation Status, Hybridization, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska, Canada, Derocher, grizzly, grolar, hybrid, pizzly, polar bear, sightings
Demographic and traditional knowledge perspectives on the current status of Canadian polar bear subpopulations. 2016 (in press). Jordan York, Martha Dowsley, Adam Cornwell, Miroslaw Kuc and Mitchell Taylor. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2030
Take home quote:
“We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis. We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present.”
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Canada, climate change, facts, Mitch Taylor, polar bear, population status, predictions, projections, sea ice
My request to Environment Canada in early December 2014 for the documents supporting their polar bear status maps has finally generated results.
In an email dated 2 March 2015, I received the document produced by the EC Polar Bear Technical Committee (PBTC). I waited to see if it would be appended to the webpage where the maps were posted last year (reported here and here). However, as of today, that has not happened, so I am posting it here. There are some rather striking differences that may surprise you.
UPDATE 22 March 2015: A copy of the letter from the Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service that accompanied the document below, which I forgot to include, is here. It states that the once a new status table has been compiled (provided below), “it is reviewed by the Polar Bear Administrative Committee and then becomes a public document.” The implication is that the reviewed document has not yet been produced.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged baffin bay, Canada, declining population, Environment Canada, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, Northern Beaufort Sea, PBTC, polar bear, Polar Bear Technical Committee, population estimates, sea ice, Southern Beaufort Sea, USGS
Earlier this year we had polar bear penis bones supposedly breaking due to environmental toxins; this week we have their brains damaged.
The March 15 ScienceNordic story (“Chemical pollution is causing brain damage in polar bears”) came complete with a photo of a bear (copied below, provided by research co-author Rune Dietz) that is presumably meant to convey what a “brain damaged” polar bear might look like — if not, perhaps another photo would have been a better choice?
Except, the research only showed there theoretically might be damage but the researchers didn’t bother looking for it before shouting out their findings. All about the scary message, these folks: the very large uncertainties and speculation in their research be damned.
Posted in Advocacy, Pollution, Sea ice habitat
Tagged brain damage, Canada, chemicals, climate change, Derocher, environmental contaminants, global warming, Hamilton, last refuge, media hype, Pederson, polar bear, predictions, sea ice decline, Sonne, threatened, toxins, worst-case scenario
An editorial in the Edmonton Journal this morning (“Stand on guard for polar bears”) takes a most extraordinary position: that the results of two recent papers of dubious value should motivate Canada to create more jobs for polar bear biologists, “protect” the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (from what, they don’t say), and galvanize Canada’s position with respect to curtailing carbon dioxide emissions. In that order.
Edmonton Journal editorial photo 22 January 2015. Munich Zoo bears.
First, the unnamed editors1 say: “This country needs more eyes and ears monitoring the health, numbers and locations of its polar bear populations.”
Why would they come to that conclusion? They quote University of Alberta’s Andrew Derocher (who supervises a number of students doing polar bear research in Western Hudson Bay):
“If Canada was doing the right thing, we’d have extensive monitoring,” University of Alberta polar bear researcher Andrew Derocher said to the Journal in late 2014.”
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged advocacy, Canada, climate change, Derocher, ESA, future threats, global warming, Hamilton, Hawkins, IPCC AR5, jobs, journalists, last refuge, Peacock, polar bear, population assessments, predictions, sea ice decline, threatened, worst-case scenario
According to maps dated June 2014, Environment Canada (EC) has changed the trend status of several Canadian subpopulations — without any announcement or publicly-available documents explaining the basis of the changes.
Figure 1. Environment Canada’s “Map 4: Series of Circumpolar Polar Bear Subpopulation and Status Trend Maps 2010, 2013 & 2014.” Original here.
And would it surprise you to learn that virtually all of these status changes reveal more good news about polar bears?
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged Canada, conservation status, Davis Strait, Environment Canada, good news, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, Nick Lunn, PBSG, polar bear, Polar Bear Technical Committee, population estimate, Southern Beaufort, trends, western hudson bay