Posted onNovember 16, 2023|Comments Off on Polar bear sea ice habitat update at 15 November & problem bears in Western Hudson Bay
Abundant polar bear habitat this fall across the Arctic so far, with only Hudson Bay sea ice formation a bit behind schedule. However, Churchill has not seen the anticipated spike in problem bear reports, given the vocal pronouncement by polar bear specialists that it should be experiencing more and more problems with bears when they spent more than 4 months ashore in summer and fall.
News of the most egregious attack by a bear I could find world wide this fall is shown in the video below, filmed 14 November 2023: apparently, the offending bear had spent several days displaying this offending behaviour.
Posted onOctober 26, 2023|Comments Off on Churchill so far has few problems with polar bears despite predictions of a record bad year
Despite misleading warnings in mid-August that a record number of incidents had already taken place, and that Churchill was on track for a record-number of bear problems this fall, the number of incidents and bears captured so far have been well below other years after the same number of weeks ashore. And while this is shaping up to be the longest ice-free season on record for Western Hudson Bay bears, it may not be a record year for problem bears in Churchill.
“On average, officers receive around 250 calls from residents and detain around 50 bears every year, according to statistics provided to Live Science by the Manitoba government. The record number of bears captured in a single year was 176, in 2003.” LiveScience, 16 August 2023
Posted onAugust 16, 2023|Comments Off on Conservation officers misleading the public about polar bear problems in Churchill
Canadian government-funded media outlet CBC ran a story this morning about problem polar bears in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, the self-described “Polar Bear Capital of the World” that contains some very misleading statements from Manitoba Conservation officers.
Breakup of sea ice on Hudson Bay was earlier this year than it has been in more than a decade (17 June) and some people are trying to hype the significance of this phenomenon to support a tenuous link to human-caused climate change, even though bears out on the ice this spring were reportedly in good condition and one of the problem bears captured on 8 August was also in good condition (a male weighing 910 lbs, photo above). Unfortunately, reports for similar early breakup years in the early 2000s have not been made public. However, I’ve been keeping track of these Polar Bear Alert Program Reports since 2015 and have read the available literature about their history: these records simply do not corroborate the statements in this CBC account.
Posted onJuly 4, 2023|Comments Off on Early sea ice breakup in W Hudson Bay caused by “record breaking” warmth in 2023 but not 2015?
According to Polar Bears International, the “3rd-earliest” breakup date for Western Hudson Bay was caused by a “record breaking” heat wave in May. Western Hudson Bay sea ice hit the 30% coverage threshold used by PBI to define “breakup” on 17 June this year, prompting speculation about potential future impacts on polar bear survival should breakup come even earlier.
“This year’s break-up date of June 17 is the 3rd earliest in the 45 years of satellite-based sea ice data from Western Hudson Bay, after 2015 and 2003.” [Flavio Lehner, PBI]
17 June 2023 is day 168 on the Julian calendar used to graph the data in the image included in the PBI essay (see copy below). However, the data point for 2003 is about three days earlier, on day 166 (14 June) and the point for 2015 is on day 152 (1 June).
If “record-breaking” heat caused this year’s early ice retreat, what caused the ice to retreat more than two weeks earlier in 2015? May was warm that year along the west coast as well but obviously not “record-breaking” warmth, because the records were broken this year. In fact, whatever warmth that occurred only affected ice melt in the western sector, while very thick ice over the rest of the bay resisted melt and allowed bears to stay out many weeks later than usual.
Posted onNovember 28, 2022|Comments Off on 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).
UPDATE 12 November 2022. One of the independents on the ground near Churchill had this to say about the bears and freeze-up conditions this year:
“Bears started leaving on November 10; conservation emptied the jail on the 10th as well.”
[the 10th was the day this post was originally published; ‘the jail’ is the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program’s ‘holding facility’, see report below]. This information suggests the average date for bears leaving shore will likely turn out to be 12-14 November, again earlier than the average for the 1980s (16 Nov +/- 5 days). There may still be a few bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park that seem to be in no hurry to leave, but a few stragglers doesn’t mean there isn’t ice available for hunting.
Posted onNovember 4, 2022|Comments Off on Polar bear triplet litter spotted near Churchill as ice starts to form along west coast of Hudson Bay
Polar bears, including a litter of triplet cubs (a sign of very good health), are gathering near Churchill, Manitoba where new ice is forming along the coast. This means the fall seal hunt will soon begin, depending on the winds (it might be a few days from now or a few weeks).
See below for some of the images of bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park taken by Explore.org video cams from Tundra Buggy-based cameras, as well as the most recent Churchill problem bear report.
Posted onOctober 18, 2022|Comments Off on Western Hudson Bay polar bears waiting for the sea ice to freeze as tourists flock to watch
Should only be a few weeks more until the ice forms along the western shore of Hudson Bay, it’s already been snowing. But for the tourist outfitters around Churchill, this is their time to profit from those willing and able to spend big money to see polar bears up close.
Posted onOctober 4, 2022|Comments Off on Good news update out of W Hudson Bay: fat polar bears are behaving themselves
Despite continued dire predictions of catastrophy, polar bears in Western Hudson Bay are behaving like the well-fed predators on holiday they are: bears are causing few problems in Churchill and poking around Arviat, seemingly out of curiousity rather than actively stalking prey.
Bears are chased out of Western Hudson Bay communities due to an abundance of caution but so far, no frightening encounters have been reported that I’ve heard about. That’s true elsewhere as well: an uneventful summer for polar bear attacks is good news indeed.
Meanwhile, no further reports from Churchill about problem bears: the last one issued was for the first week in August. Time will tell at freeze-up whether this will be yet another very good year for Western Hudson Bay bears.