Polar bears are supposed to starve before they die, the experts said. They said only a few years ago that dead or emaciated individuals onshore were evidence that many polar bears would soon be dying of starvation out on the sea ice. So, if the Western Hudson Bay (WH) subpopulation had indeed dropped by 27% by late summer 2021 as researchers claimed, where are all the photos of starving bears in the fall of 2020, the year before the count? The photo below of a thin female and cub was taken in late fall of 2021 (the year of the count) by a stationary web cam. In other words, some bears came off the ice without an optimal amount of fat because of poor hunting conditions over the winter but they were still alive. We know that 2020 had the shortest ice-free season in at least 20 years (and no similar images were captured), so bears went into the winter of 2020/2021 in good condition. Ditto for 2017-2019. In contrast to 2021, in 2016 (the year of the previous survey that also indicated a declining population size), bears reportedly came off the ice in good condition.
All I’ve seen are photos of fat bears and fat cubs, even a triplet litter in fall 2020. The shore of WH near Churchill should have been abounding with starving bears in 2020 (and in 2015), if the experts were right about starving bears preceding a population decline. More importantly, where are the studies on food-deprived bears onshore, as were done in the 1980s when WH bears were emaciated and cub survival poor (e.g. Ramsay et al. 1988)? WH bears are being used exclusively to model an implausibly pessimistic future for polar bears across the entire Arctic (Molnar et al. 2010; 2020), which means lack of good science for WH polar bears has big consequences. Covid restrictions in two of those ten years don’t excuse lack of study on this phenomenon.Continue reading