Davis Strait polar bears around Newfoundland and Labrador are currently experiencing what one polar bear specialist refers to as “failed” sea ice conditions, causing bears to come ashore in droves. I’m not making this up.
The ice was so thick in the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and southern Labrador last week that a ferry was stuck for 24 hours and had to be rescued by an icebreaker.
The boats of fisherman on the north shore of Newfoundland are stuck in thick ice that’s not expected to clear until mid-May at the earliest and they can’t get out to fish.
See this video posted on Twitter two days ago.
The same thing (perhaps even worse) happened in 2007, see Twillingate in the spring of 2007 below:
Yet, in 2007 there was not a single polar bear reported onshore in Newfoundland (as far as I am aware) but this year there were almost a dozen. And the photos show fat, healthy bears – not animals struggling to survive.
According to Andrew Derocher, that’s proof “failed” sea ice is the reason that polar bears came ashore this year but not last year (when there was also lots of ice in late March/early April, see additional maps and graphs below). Last year there were sightings in the middle of winter (January/February) in Labrador and Newfoundland (which I reported here) and one bear was shot in Newfoundland in early May when he advanced on local RCMP officers.
I think Derocher believes he’s set the record straight by offering an interview of his own to refute the things I said to the CBC last week (I talked on two Newfoundland radio stations, which generated a print CBC article). But Newfoundlanders have to deal with used car salesmen just like the everyone else, so I expect they are having a good laugh right now at the expert who’s blaming their polar bear troubles on a lack of sea ice.
CBC News this morning (“Grolar or pizzly? Experts say rare grizzly-polar bear hybrid shot in Nunavut: Expert says interbreeding may be happening more frequently due to climate change“) suggests that a putative grizzly x polar bear hybrid bear shot outside Arviat in Western Hudson Bay is a sign of climate change, based on an interview with a black bear expert from Minnesota.
This bogus claim has been busted so many times it’s a wonder it still arises – even polar bear specialist Ian Stirling has said flat out that such hybrids are not due to climate change. On top of that, some of the details regarding this putative hybrid make me want to wait for confirmation from DNA testing before adding it to the roster of known hybrids.
Posted in Advocacy, Hybridization, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arviat, CBC, climate change, Garshelis, grizzly polar bear, grolar, hybrid, Nunavut, pizzly, range expansion, sea ice
Now, not so much. Here is a 16- year old CBC TV special on Churchill polar bears – listen to Ian Stirling and reporter Eve Savory use the early breakup of sea ice on Hudson Bay in 1999 to hype the alarm about Western Hudson Bay polar bears. Watch Stirling in action darting and measuring bears and bemoaning the good old days of the 1980s, claiming the “bears are sending a signal from the ecosystem.”
Watch this archived copy of “The Shrinking Bears of Hudson Bay” and compare his claims to what has actually happened in the 16 years since then. It runs just over 15 minutes.
“Just as the ice is shrinking in Hudson Bay, so are its polar bears. Climate change has shortened the season for winter ice, a crucial period for the bears to feast on seals and build up their fat reserves. And so, over the 18 years that wildlife biologist Ian Stirling has been studying them, the polar bears have become skinnier and their offspring fewer. In this 1999 report for CBC-TV’s The National, Stirling says once their habitat is gone, there’s nowhere else the Hudson Bay polar bears can go.” [my bold – see notes below]
• Program: The National [Canadian Broadcasting Company, CBC]
• Broadcast Date: Sept. 23, 1999
• Duration: 16:39
Stirling has continue to make these claims since 1999, yet no updated evidence has been provided. There is no plausible evidence that the decline of polar bear numbers in Western Hudson Bay was due to sea ice changes caused by human-caused global warming (Crockford 2015) or that continued declines in condition of bears or litter size have occurred. Note that the latest survey of Western Hudson Bay polar bears found no trend in either breakup or freeze-up dates since 2001 (Lunn et al. 2013) and that the population is now stable.
Ice coverage charts and breakup dates graph below, for context.
UPDATE ADDED – see below
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged body condition, breakup, CBC, Churchill, climate change, freeze-up, global warming, Hudson Bay, litter sizes, polar bear, population estimate, sea ice, Shrinking Bears, Stirling, western hudson bay
From the CBC this morning, we have the report of a female polar bear and her cub paying a visit to an Nunavut campsite near Chesterfield Inlet in northwestern Hudson Bay, which is technically within the boundary of the Foxe Basin polar bear subpopulation.
Maggie Putulik photo, 29 July 2015 Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut.
These are not the desperate bear victims of global warming we have been warned about by polar bear specialists but well-fed curious ursids not averse to an easy meal if there’s one to be had. Such bears are easily deterred by a loud noise. Note this was the second visit by polar bears this Nunavut family had experienced at this location within a three-week period – two other bears had stopped by earlier. Note that ice in this region of Hudson Bay broke up earlier than usual this year yet these bears seem to be in fine condition and can expect the first fall ice of the season (freeze-up) to appear in their neighbourhood, see maps below.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged breakup, CBC, Chesterfield Inlet, cub, Foxe Basin, freeze-up, Hudson Bay, Nunavut, onshore, polar bear, problem bears, Putulik, sea ice, summer
Polar bear habitat is close to average for this date all over the Arctic this week. Barents Sea pack ice has increased substantially since last week and the ice in Eastern Canada is still well above average (and higher than 1979-early 1980s). Arctic ice has grown since a preemptive call for “the lowest maximum extent on record” was made by NSIDC last week — there is now at least as much ice for this date as there was in 2011 and almost as much as there was last year (2014).
Southern Davis Strait polar bears are out feeding on the glut of harp seals in the pack ice off Labrador and Newfoundland (discussed in detail here). One or more bears strayed a bit from the pack and ended up swimming around near the Hibernia oil platform (not far from the ice edge, although the CBC reports didn’t mention that “minor” fact), discussed in this recently updated post (with maps).
Harp seal female with nursing pup, DFO Canada.
Ice maps and graphs below: it’s worth a look.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Barents Sea, Canadian Ice Service, CBC, denning females, Derocher, harp seals, Hibernia, Hopen Island, Labrador, Newfoundland, Norwegian Ice Service, NSIDC, oil platform, polar bears, sea ice, sea ice maximum, Svalbard, swimming
Umbrage alert! Last night, a half-length short form of the powerful and balanced documentary “The Politics of Polar Bears” aired across Canada on the CBC’s flagship TV news program, The National.
Right after it aired, they followed up with a lengthy online summary by the producer of the film, Reg Sherren (“Polar bears: Threatened species or political pawn?”, September 2, with video of the 19 minute short program). Check out the comments below it! Excerpts and my comments below.
[Links to the full length film here and in my previous posts here and here]
UPDATED April 27 2015: Video now available on Youtube, imbedded below Full length video no longer available, short one at CBC here.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged CBC, Derocher, documentary, endangered, global warming, Mitch Taylor, polar bear, politics of polar bears, population estimate, predictions, Reg Sherren, sea ice, The National, threatened, video, warm interglacials, western hudson bay
This powerful, balanced documentary, with a focus on the bears of Western Hudson Bay, can now be watched online. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) production, it includes interviews with polar bear biologists Mitch Taylor (screen-cap below) and Seth Stapleton – juxtaposed with statements from outspoken polar bear conservation advocate Andrew Derocher.
I was not mentioned by name (making me “she who cannot be named” yet again?) but host Reg Sherren did discuss the contents of the email I received from PBSG chairman Dag Vongraven earlier this summer about their proposed clarification to the global population estimate (and posted here).
It can be viewed online at “CBC Player,” in its entirety (45 minutes long), without commercials – see it http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Absolutely%20Canadian/Absolutely%20Manitoba/ID/2499492515/?cmp=rss
I can’t guarantee those outside Canada will be able to view it but I watched it Sunday night (August 31) from British Columbia. It’s well worth the time.
[Aired originally on “Absolutely Manitoba” (Season 2014, Episode 5, Aug 30, 2014), by Reg Sherren. See announcement article here]
[Note: the “Sharon Crockford” interviewed in the film is no relation to me, as far as I know!]
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged CBC, Dag Vongraven, declining sea ice, Derocher, documentary, endangered species, global population estimate, Mitch Taylor, polar bears, politics of polar bears, Reg Sherren, Seth Stapleton, threatened with extinction, western hudson bay