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
And the proposed coastal refuge won’t protect the denning areas of the majority of Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, because most females den out on the sea ice, not on land.
The folks at Polar Bears International (PBI) are crowing with delight at the announcement today that US President Obama has recommended that congress approve plans to implement a proposed an Arctic wildlife refuge area that would include the Arctic coastal plain [see links below, including Obama video].
And in doing so, they mislead the public about how many polar bears use this region of coastal Alaska — as do the US Fish and Wildlife Service on their Refuge website.
Posted in Advocacy, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, coastal, denning females, Fischbach, polar bear, protection, Refuge, Schliebe, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, thick spring ice, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS
To counter the misleading ploy used by the Sunday Times — of implying polar bears are in peril because of recent changes in Arctic sea ice (Sunday Times & The Australian, 21/22 Sept. 2014 Arctic ice cap in a ‘death spiral’) — I’ll go over again why the polar bear as a species is not threatened by declines in summer sea ice or even winter ice that is predominantly “thin” (first year) ice.
Graphic above from the Sunday Times, September 21, 2014
Posted in Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat, Summary
Tagged Arctic ice cap, arctic sea ice, Chukchi Sea, death spiral, denning females, evidence, first year ice, ice thickness, ice-free Arctic, Mark Serreze, North Pole, Peter Wadhams, polar bear, sea ice extent, thin sea ice
The yearly sea ice minimum extent is almost upon us, which has recently been the seasonal signal for excitable biologists and their activist groupies to resume their breathless rants about what sea ice loss could mean for polar bears.
Never mind that the summer minimum extent reached in September, no matter how low it goes, is pretty much irrelevant to polar bear health and survival. As I’ve discussed before, what’s really important is the presence of not-too-thick ice during the spring, so they can catch lots of young seals and put on lots of fat.
But to a lesser degree, the extent at mid-to-late summer is important because this is when pregnant females that prefer to make their maternity dens on shore are looking for good places to spend the winter.
So the topic for today is this: how much does the extent of ice at the height of summer dictate where polar bear females make their winter dens?
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic ice death spiral, Arctic ice extent, Barents Sea, CIS, denning females, Labrador, Mark Serreze, NSIDC, polar bear, Southern Beaufort, summer sea ice, summer sea ice minimum, tracking polar bears, USGS, western hudson bay
Here is the follow-up to my post on the July track map for polar bears being followed by satellite in the Beaufort Sea by the US Geological Survey (USGS) – Ten out of ten polar bears being tracked this summer in the Beaufort Sea are on the ice. See that post for methods and other background on this topic, and some track maps from 2012 (also available at the USGS website here).
The track map for September was posted on the USGS website on October 17 (delayed due to the US government shutdown) and is copied here below (Figure 1). The ice rebounded during the second half of the month (after the annual minimum was reached on September 13). The ten bears from July were down to eight – their collars might have stopped working or fallen off (most likely), they might have left the area entirely (also possible) or they might have died (the researchers don’t say which).
Figure 1. Original caption: “Movements of 8 satellite-tagged polar bears for the month of September, 2013. Polar bears were tagged in 2013 on the spring-time sea ice of the southern Beaufort Sea. All 8 of these bears have satellite collar transmitters [i.e., all are females]. Polar bear satellite telemetry data are shown with Ice Analysis charts from 26 August, 2013. Ice Analysis charts are made available by the National Ice Center. The land cover is made available by Natural Earth. Click on the above image to enlarge.” [Note that the dots with the polar bear icons are the end points (end September), while the other end of the string is their position in early September, indicating that the ice is now moving towards the shore. The pink dot present in August is almost entirely obscured by the purple dot, which is overlapping the yellow dot on shore in Alaska; also, the light brown dot is on Banks Island, far right.]
It appears that of the eight polar bears still being followed by USGS researchers in September, four are on shore and four are still on the ice.
Only time will tell if the four females on shore are pregnant and preparing maternity dens for the winter, but this seems the likely reason they are not on the ice with the others.
One very interesting point worth noting:
the one bear (light brown) captured onshore in the Southern Beaufort
subpopulation region in the spring of 2013
, has moved into the Northern Beaufort
subpopulation region, on Banks Island (see map here
), and may be denning there. This inter-subpopulation movement is relatively uncommon.
The map for July 2013 is below, for comparison: Continue reading
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Beaufort Sea, denning females, Eastern Beaufort, females with radio collars, habitat, Northern Beaufort, polar bears, sea ice extent, Southern Beaufort, summer ice minimum, summer sea ice, tracking polar bears, tracking polar bears by satellite, USGS
In an earlier post (July 26), I had some critical things to say about an article in the Edmonton Journal (July 17, 2012) by veteran Arctic science writer and photographer Ed Struzik called “Bleak future for polar bears, U of A scientists say“, which was picked up by news outlets across Canada.
The Struzik article publicized a summary academic paper written by polar bear biologists Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher (a former Ph.D. student of Stirling) that appeared “in press” behind the paywall at the journal Global Change Biology on July 9.
The academic paper is a summary of Stirling and Derocher’s dire predictions on the future fate of polar bears as a result of melting of Arctic sea ice over the next few decades, one of the prophesied catastrophes of anthropogenic global warming. These views mirror to a large degree the chapter on “climate warming” in Ian Stirling’s book on polar bears released in 2011, which I reviewed recently here.
Let’s look at one of the statements made in the Struzik article:
In Alaska, many bears are denning on land because there is insufficient ice for them to give birth offshore.
Update added Aug. 28, 3:35 PM below the post