Amid reports that ice conditions between Newfoundland and southern Labrador are the worst in living memory, another polar bear was reported ashore in the area — just after biologist Andrew Derocher explained to the CBC that bears only come on land when sea ice conditions “fail.”
“Ice too thick for coast guard’s heavy icebreaker” said a 20 April 2017 CBC report on the state of ice in the Strait of Belle Isle. The pack is thick first year ice (four feet thick or more in places) and embedded with icebergs of much older, thicker ice. The ice packed along the northern shore of Newfoundland is hampering fishermen from getting out to sea and is not expected to clear until mid-May.
NASA Worldview shows the extent of the pack ice over northwest Newfoundland and southern Labrador on 19 April 2017 (the Strait of Belle Isle is the bit between the two):
The same day that the above satellite image was taken (19 April), at the north end of the Strait on the Newfoundland side, a polar bear was spotted in a small community northwest of St. Anthony (marked below, “Wildberry Country Lodge” at Parker’s Brook). It’s on the shore of north-facing Pistolet Bay on the Great Northern Peninsula, near the 1000 year old Viking occupation site of L’Anse aux Meadows.
There were no photos of the Parker’s Brook bear but lots of others have been taken this year of almost a dozen seen along Newfoundland shorelines since early March: see my recently updated post, with an updated map of reported sightings. Harp seals are now abundant in the pack ice of southern Davis Strait, providing polar bears with an ample source of food when they need it most and therefore, a strong attractant to the area.
Yet, as I reported yesterday, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher told the CBC this week that polar bears are almost always “forced” ashore by poor ice conditions. The CBC report included his tweet from 10 April, where he suggested “failed” Newfoundland ice conditions were the cause of multiple bears onshore in Newfoundland this year.
Similar thick ice conditions off northern Newfoundland (perhaps even worse) occurred 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 taken this year show fat, healthy bears – not animals struggling to survive.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Davis Strait, expert, harp seals, Labrador, Newfoundland, onshore, polar bears, population increase, sea ice, sightings
Another fat bear onshore in late winter, this time along the Quebec shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (22 March 2017) – and this time, one of the witnesses to the sighting took some great photos. Courtesy CBC News (Polar bear makes rare appearance on Quebec’s Lower North Shore 24 March 2017).
Quotes, location map, and sea ice charts below.
Posted in Life History, Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Davis Strait, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, onshore, polar bears, Quebec, sea ice, sightings, spring feeding, winter
This short BBC video shows why polar bears are so often unsuccessful in their summer hunts – adult bearded seals are the species most often available on the ice. These seals are not only predator-savvy but there are lots of escape routes in the melting ice, and this has always been so.
“Hungry polar bear surprises a seal – The Hunt: Episode 2 Preview – BBC One”
Melting ice in summer is not a new phenomenon (e.g. NASA photo below from mid-July 2016) – Thomas Grenfell and Gary Maykut described the process of melt pond development back in the 1970s:
“Melt ponds reach the maximum extent shortly after the disappearance of the snow, when they may cover upwards of 50% of the ice.”
Melting summer ice has always made it challenging for polar bears to catch seals, as this quote from Ian Stirling (1974) show, based on his work in the Central Canadian Arctic in the summer of 1973 (July and August):
“There is a great abundance of natural holes in the ice during summer, anyone of which a seal could surface through. “
This is still true in areas like the Southern Beaufort Sea today (e.g. Whiteman et al. 2015): the ice melts and in some areas, disappears completely in summer.
It’s why polar bears – unlike other species of bears in summer – depend on their stored fat to see them through until the ice reforms in the fall.
The meme “If there’s no ice, there’s no ice bear” is political-style rhetoric, not science.
[When polar bear scientists say “sea ice” or “ice” – they mean summer sea ice. Sea ice in winter and spring are not predicted to decline by 2100 to any appreciable degree and that has been true since sea ice predictions began]
Polar bears in Hudson Bay and Davis Strait routinely go 4-5 months without sea ice in the summer and have done since studies on them began. Yet, all of the polar bear subpopulations in Hudson Bay and Davis Strait are stable or increasing.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged bearded seals, Davis Strait, facts, Hudson Bay, hunting, no ice, no ice bear, platform, polar bear, sea ice, seals, summer
A polar bear female accompanied by a cub recently attempted to board a small sailboat anchored in a remote harbour off central Labrador – giving the two American boaters below deck a mighty big surprise.
‘He said ‘it’s a bear, it’s right on the boat, make some noise.'” – Nancy Zydler
The encounter occurred south of the same national park where a much-publicized attack occurred in July 2013 (see previous posts here and here) but had a happier ending. See more below from a CBC report released this morning (based on a radio interview) and some ecological context for the sighting not mentioned by the reporter.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged attacks, Davis Strait, encounters, harp seals, Labrador, Meltdown, polar bear, prey, problem bears, sailboat, sightings, summer, summer fast, swimming, Torngat Mountains National Park
This week (Tuesday 9 August), British Columbia’s Knowledge Network is re-running the 2015 documentary about the revitalization of Fogo Island, the Newfoundland location featured in my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN. It’s called Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island and highlights the Fogo Island Inn, where our recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently spent a weekend earlier this year – gambling he could avoid a lethal encounter with a hungry polar bear when fictional others haven’t been so lucky.
The Prime Minister and his family stayed at the Fogo Island Inn over Easter (25-28 March 2016). Did Justin Trudeau know they could have been EATEN by a polar bear at that time of year? Were members of his security detail actually prepared for a polar bear attack?
Did Trudeau’s advisors do any preparatory reading? I mean, seriously: aside from reading my terrifying science-based novel (where polar bear attacks take place right outside the Fogo Island Inn where the Trudeaus were staying), Fogo (see maps below) has a recent history of polar bear visits.
Most bears come ashore on Newfoundland in late March-early April, although this year one came ashore on Fogo in late January. Another was shot in early May this year as it advanced on an RCMP officer near one of the artist’s studios on Fogo. I guess I’ll have to send a complimentary copy to Ottawa…because next time, what with polar bear numbers increasing in that region, this high-profile family might not be so lucky.
“What-if” indeed…the risks they took are mind-boggling. Continue reading
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Uncategorized
Tagged architecture, Arctic, attacks, Davis Strait, documentary, Eaten, ferry, Fogo, Fogo Island Inn, harp seals, Newfoundland, novel, polar bear, prime minister, thriller, Trudeau
Just look at the polar bear on the cover of my new novel (right sidebar) and image that bear coming towards you with no intention of stopping. That’s what a Newfoundland RCMP officer faced yesterday – and he did what he had to do.
This is the usual time for polar bear visits to northern Newfoundland but this one had a sad ending. The bear that came ashore at Deep Cove (where some of the action in my novel EATEN takes place, near the artist studio pictured in the photo shown above) on Fogo Island (map below) was killed by RCMP due to fears for public safety when it kept approaching officers even after warning shots were fired.
Maps and quotes from the 2 May CTV report below:
UPDATE 4 May 2016: more detailed (and accurate) information added below from a new CBC report – apparently, the bear was a large juvenile male, not an adult as originally reported, and was larger than initial reports indicated.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged attack, Davis Strait, Eaten, Fogo, Newfoundland, polar bear, problem bears, RCMP, sea ice, swimming
This is a follow-up to a post on my book blog that I wrote this morning because it’s relevant to the scenario I describe in my novel, set in the year 2025 in northern Newfoundland. I’m cross posting it for the benefit of regular readers here.
It appears that most of the blame for this phenomenon of multiple sightings of hungry bears onshore in the dead of winter (creating havoc and roaming among houses in the coastal Labrador communities of Black Tickle and Charlottetown) has been placed squarely on…climate change. By a government minister. You have to hear this man’s words to believe it.
Posted in Advocacy, Polar bear attacks, Population
Tagged Black Tickle, Charlottetown, climate change, Davis Strait, encounters, facts, Labrador, Newfoundland, Perry Trimper, polar bears, population increase, range contraction, sea ice, sightings