Posted onJanuary 12, 2023|Comments Off on Recent paper on W. Hudson Bay polar bears includes new official sea ice freeze-up data
Even though it’s in graph form only, we finally have an update on sea ice freeze-up dates for Western Hudson Bay for 2016-2020 (but not breakup dates).
This graphed data published by Miller et al. 2022 extends by five years that published in 2017 by Castro de la Guardia and colleagues, which contained graphed data for breakup and freeze-up dates from 1979-2015 (with exact dates for 2005-2008 only).
It confirms a statement I made last month, that between 2016 and 2021 “there has been only one ‘late’ freeze-up year (2016)–but five very early ones.” Of course, 2021 was not included in this new dataset, so that would be “four very early ones” up to 2020.
Posted onDecember 1, 2021|Comments Off on Higher than average Svalbard sea ice extent in November 2021 has implications for birth of cubs
Early last November, sea ice around Svalbard was the lowest it had been since 1967 and pregnant females were simply unable to den on the eastern islands of the archipelago and instead had to make their dens and give birth in the pack ice or the Franz Josef Land archipelago further east, as they have done before. However, the ice is back this fall with a vengeance: even Hopen Island in the south of region was surrounded by ice well before the end of the month but whether it will attract a few pregnant females remains to be seen.
Posted onMarch 23, 2020|Comments Off on Amid viral pandemic UK photographer captures images of Canadian polar bear cubs
The Sun ran a photo-essay yesterday (22 March 2020, below) taken by a UK photographer who went to Wapusk National Park just south of Churchill, Manitoba in order to get much-coveted images of polar bear mothers and cubs newly emerged from winter maternity dens. The photos were said to have been taken “early last week” (16-17 March?).
The trees in the photos are a give-away to the location: no other subpopulation regions except Western and Southern Hudson Bay are below the treeline. Scrubby little spruces but ‘trees’ nonetheless. Mothers in more northern regions won’t come out with their cubs until April.
The question is: what was this photographer thinking to travel to a remote Arctic location in the middle of a global pandemic?
UPDATE 24 March 2020 820am PT. I have just heard from photographer Brian Mathews and he had this to say about his trip to Wapusk National Park:
“Context and facts are key as ever. I left the U.K. before any of the measures where in place. I’ve just got back after being in Canada for nearly a month. When I returned to Churchill I self isolated then returned to the U.K. the coverage I got is good for the bears and the positive uplifting feedback I’ve had about the joy they brought into people lives had be brilliant.”
I noted in my response to him that I realize the tour company in Canada bears some responsibility for continuing to operate under the circumstances.
Posted onDecember 21, 2019|Comments Off on Polar bear cubs play on the thin ice that supposedly threatens them with extinction
This video tweet deserves a post of its own: two relatively inexperienced cubs-of-the-year in Russia deliberately break through thin ice, fall into the icy water and crawl back out – over and over again, for fun, as their mother watches in the background. Play is one way animals learn important survival lessons and for polar bears, this is one of them:
Posted onMay 1, 2017|Comments Off on IUCN PBSG insists the 2015 Barents Sea polar bear count was not an increase
Similar to the spin on the 2013 Baffin Bay/Kane Basin polar bear population survey, the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group now insists the latest count of the Barents Sea subpopulation is not evidence of an increase in numbers since 2004, as the leader of the study announced in 2015.
This is Part 2 of the big surprises in the latest version of the polar bear status table published by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) on 30 March 2017. See last post here regarding the PBSG population size estimates that no longer concur with the 2015 Red List assessment, including the global total — even though PBSG members wrote the report (Wiig et al. 2015, and its Supplement).
Here I want to focus on the results of subpopulation surveys that were made public after the 2015 Red List assessment was published, particularly the Barents Sea estimate.
While the 2013 Baffin Bayand Kane Basin estimates (SWG 2016) have been added to the new PBSG table, any suggestion that these might indicate population increases are strong discounted. Similarly, contrary to initial reports by the principal investigators of the survey, the PBSG insist that the Barents Sea population has not actually increased since 2004, which you may or many not find convincing.
Posted onDecember 5, 2016|Comments Off on An El Niño year late start to freeze-up on Hudson Bay: bears gearing up to hunt
There is no serious ice on the west shore of Hudson Bay yet (as the map below shows) but the winds have just shifted – instead of coming from the south, they are now blowing in from the north.
Freeze-up and a resumption of seal hunting for Western and Southern Hudson Bay polar bears looks imminent. The bears get out on the ice as soon as they are physically able, when the ice is about 3-4 inches thick (about 10 cm).
I’m going to let Kelsey Eliasson from PolarBearAlley, on shore at Churchill, convey the gist of the freeze-up situation on the Bay.
Recall that freeze-up was late in both 1998 and 1999 – during the height of that strong El Niño warmth as well as the year following. Continue reading
Comments Off on An El Niño year late start to freeze-up on Hudson Bay: bears gearing up to hunt
Posted onMarch 31, 2016|Comments Off on Late winter surge in sea ice habitat and the resilience of Svalbard polar bears
The Barents Sea – and Svalbard in particular – has had very little sea ice this winter but recent evidence suggests pregnant females adapted by moving east to Franz Josef Land to have their cubs. The surge in ice that’s come over the last few weeks will, however, be welcome habitat for the critical hunt of fat newborn seals that takes place primarily in April and May.
It was only last fall that Norwegian biologist Jon Aars (photo above taken by him in August 2015) was touting the fat condition of Svalbard-area polar bears he and his team saw in August and admitted the population had increased by a whopping 42% since 2004 – despite dire predictions of a drastic decline. In fact, 2014/2015 was a great year for the area’s polar bears.
However, in the fall of 2015 sea ice was so late forming around Svalbard that it seemed impossible that any females would get to traditional denning grounds on the east coast in time to give birth. There was no sea ice to speak of until late December, so it seemed virtually certain that all females had gone to Franz Josef Land further east (in Russia) – as they are known to do – to utilized its alternative denning sites.
It’s called resilience – the ability to shift behaviour in response to changing conditions. In this case, all indications are that shifting den locations to Franz Josef Land is a long-standing response of Svalbard area polar bears to low ice conditions. This shift does not even require a movement outside their subpopulation boundaries, let alone a movement outside the ill-defined “sea ice ecoregions” originally defined by Steven Amstrup and colleagues (2008) to support their prediction that polar bears will likely be extinct by 2100, taken up later by others since.
Some polar bear specialists appear to believe that if Barents Sea conditions are not precisely what they were in the 1980s (examples here and here), polar bears cannot possibly survive. But the bears are showing them otherwise – and demonstrating how they likely survived previous warm periods like the Holocene Optimum ~9,000 years ago and the Eemian Interglacial~115,000-130,000 years ago (CERQA 2014:66) without population numbers getting anywhere near extinction levels. Continue reading
Comments Off on Late winter surge in sea ice habitat and the resilience of Svalbard polar bears
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth – this is all about pressuring people to care about climate change. Polar bears are merely a marketing tool to spur action on climate change. That’s not my opinion but the plan put in place in 2012 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Polar Bears International.
Oddly, few animal rights activists are objecting (or at least, not objecting very strenuously) to zoo displays of captive polar bear cubs – obvious money-making drawsfor zoos – which were so vehemently condemned in the 1970s that mostzoos gave them up.
Now, the practice is defended and everyone seems to feel this is the greatest thing since the invention of the telephone. [Update 19 February 2016:courtesy the BBC, we can add Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland to the list of zoos using “we’re saving the polar bears” justification for breeding the bears in captivity]
The surprise is that disgraced climate scientist Michael Mann, promoter of the infamous hockey stick of global temperatures, is involved in all this.
Posted onJanuary 5, 2016|Comments Off on Tracking polar bears in the Beaufort Sea – one tagged bear left at year end 2015
I’ve combined the months of November and December for this post on USGS polar bear tracking in the Beaufort Sea because there’s not much to tell: there’s one tagged bear left and she’s going almost nowhere. Where’s the news in that?
Movements of 1 satellite-tagged polar bear female for the month of November, 2015; shown with sea ice coverage at 30 November 2015. This bear was tagged in the spring of 2015 in the Southern Beaufort Sea. See original image here and December movements below.