Tag Archives: extinction

New Scientist prints a more reasoned polar bear article but myths persist

New Scientist has an article coming out next week takes a fairly reasoned approach to the polar bear conservation issue. It acknowledges that polar bear numbers have not declined in recent years even though summer sea ice dropped dramatically but goes on to perpetuate a number of myths that might not have happened if the author had done his homework or quizzed his other experts as thoroughly as he did me.

New Scientist headline_10 Feb 2018 issue 3164 photo

The survivors: is climate change really killing polar bears? Rapid global warming is said to be ringing the death knell for polar bears, by melthing their icy hunting grounds. But the reality is more complex. Fred Pearce, New Scientist 10 February 2018. Online now.

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Experts talk of their bleak future, W Hudson Bay polar bears get earliest freezeup in decades

It seems that Churchill residents and visitors woke up this morning to find most local polar bears had left to go hunting — on the sea ice that supposedly doesn’t exist. Right in the middle of the Polar Bear Week campaign devised by Polar Bears International to drum up donation dollars and public sympathy for polar bear conservation!

Polar bear on the sea ice_Churchill_8 Nov 2017_Explore dot org cam my photo 2Frigid temperatures and north winds last night helped the process along, but this early freeze-up has been in the works for almost a week. From what I can ascertain, it appeared the only bears around onshore today were a mother with her young cub moving out towards the ice (females with cubs are usually the last to move offshore, probably to reduce the risk of encounters with adult males who might kill the cubs).

Tundra Buggy cams at Explore.org have been showing markedly fewer bears today and those that have been seen were on the ice (see above and below) or heading out to it.

The chart below is for yesterday (7 November), before the cold and north winds hit the region. It shows the concentration of ice that’s >15 cm thick.

Hudson Bay North 2017 concentration Nov 7

The chart for 8 November is below, after the storm.

Hudson Bay North daily ice concentration 2017_Nov 8

This is ice thick and extensive enough for polar bears to go hunting. Some bears almost certainly left shore yesterday, with the rest following quickly on their heals today. There are sure to be some stragglers left ashore that will leave over the next few days but the fact remains: there is sea ice to be had for those polar bear willing to start hunting.

Watch polar bear on the WHB sea ice below (screen caps below – and one above – were taken the afternoon of 8 November, from the Tundra Buggy Cam live feed near Churchill).

Polar bear on the sea ice_Churchill_8 Nov 2017_Explore dot org cam my photo 3

Keep in mind that in the 1980s, bears left for the ice on 8 November, on average. That means we’re back to a 1980s freeze-up scenario, at least for this year.

Funny how no one bothered to mention the potential for an early freeze-up to the media last week, when scientist were so eager to talk about the imminent demise of WHB bears. And funny that Polar Bears International hasn’t tweeted a word today about the famous Churchill bears having enough sea ice to go hunting, smack in the middle of Polar Bear Week.

Yes, the “Save Our Sea Ice” PBI rallying cry sounds a bit hollow with sea ice as far as the eye can see off Churchill today. But will anyone in the mainstream media point out the irony?

See charts below for years back to 2004, on this date (2005 missing for some reason), to compare to the above 8 November image (2004 is as far back as the archive goes).

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Twenty reasons not to worry about polar bears, the 2017 update

Cover image_Twenty Reasons_polarbearscienceJust in time for Polar Bears International’s self-proclaimed fall Polar Bear Week (5-11 November 2017), here’s a new resource for cooling the polar bear spin. I’ve updated my 2015 summary of reasons not to worry about polar bears, which is now more than two years old. In this new version, you will find links to supporting information, including published papers and fully referenced blog posts of mine that provide background, maps and bibliographies, although some of the most important graphs and maps have been reproduced here. I hope you find it a useful resource for refuting the pessimism and prophecies of catastrophe about the future of polar bears. Please feel free to share it.

As global leaders meet in Bonn for COP23 (6-17 November 2017), it’s time to celebrate the proven resilience of polar bears to their ever-changing Arctic environment.

Twenty Reasons: the bullet points

  1. Polar bears are still a conservation success story: there are more polar bears now than there were 40 years ago.
  2. Fewer populations are in decline than in 2010 (only one, officially) and only six are data deficient (down from nine).
  3. Abrupt summer sea ice decline has not affected polar bear numbers as predicted: even though sea ice levels dropped to mid-century levels in 2007, the expected decimation of polar bears failed to occur.
  4. The Chukchi Sea population is thriving despite a pronounced lengthening of the ice-free season since 2007.
  5. Less sea ice in the summer in the Chukchi Sea has meant a healthy prey base for polar bears because ringed seals feed primarily in the ice-free season.
  6. Polar bears have shown themselves to be adaptable to changing ice conditions in several regions.
  7. Southern Beaufort numbers have rebounded since the last survey count.
  8. Barents Sea numbers have probably increased since 2005 and have definitely not declined despite much less sea ice cover.
  9. There is no evidence that record-low summer sea ice in 2012 had a harmful effect on Southern Beaufort bear numbers.
  10. Other species are being negatively impacted by high polar bear numbers, especially nesting sea birds and ducks.
  11. Western Hudson Bay population numbers have been stable since 2004, despite what scientists are telling the media.
  12. Hudson Bay sea ice has not changed since about 1999: breakup dates and freeze-up dates are highly variable but the ice-free period was not any longer in 2015 than it was in 2004. However, this fall freeze-up is shaping up to be the earliest in decades.
  13. Problem bears in Churchill are not lean or starving.
  14. Churchill Manitoba had the most problem bears in 1983 and 2016, which were late freeze-up years, but many of the incidents in 2016 can be attributed to increased vigilance on the part of patrol officers after an attack in 2013.
  15. There have been only marginal sea ice declines during the feeding period in spring, when polar bears need sea ice the most.
  16. The is no evidence that subsistence hunting is affecting bear populations.
  17. Stressful research methods have been curtailed in much of Canada.
  18. There have been no reports of polar bear cannibalism since 2011.
  19. Polar bears appear unaffected by pollution: studies suggest only that harm is theoretically possible, not that it has happened.
  20. Polar bears have survived past warm periods, which is evidence they have the ability to survive future warm periods.


  • Polar bears are thriving: they are not currently threatened with extinction.
  • Tens of thousands of polar bears did not die as a result of more than a decade of low summer sea ice, as was predicted.
  • Polar bears don’t need sea ice in late summer/early fall as long as they are well-fed in the spring.

[full text below, pdf with footnotes and references here]

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Breaking: Pacific walrus is not threatened with extinction says US Fish & Wildlife

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they cannot determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future,” which the agency defines as the year 2060.”

(CBC, 4 October 2017).

Walrus female Point Lay Alaska_Ryan Kingsbery USGS

“The agency said in 2011 that walruses deserve the additional protection of being declared threatened, but delayed a listing because other species were a higher priority.

The agency revised the decision based on new information, said Patrick Lemons, the agency’s marine mammals management chief.

“Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviours than previously thought,” Lemons said. Their ability to rest on shorelines before swimming to foraging areas makes the threat of less sea ice uncertain, he added.”

UPDATES below:

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Fabulous polar bear science book for kids now available in French and German

Announcing the French and German translations of my popular science book, Polar Bear Facts and Myths (suitable for children aged seven and up), are now available through Amazon worldwide in paperback. Please pass along to your friends, relatives, and colleagues in North America and abroad. The English version still available in paperback and ebook formats.


Crockford Ours Polaire_French front cover_web size_10 Sept 2017

Titre: Ours Polaire Faits et Mythes: Un résumé scientifique pour tous âges
L’autheur: Susan J. Crockford
Traduit par: Reynald Duberger
Date de publication: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976158362
Nombre de pages: 44
Le price: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping]  CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Acheter-le ici: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.ca [Canada, also in the French Immersion Store]; Amazon.fr [France]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.de [Germany]

On a fait croire aux enfants qu’il ne reste que quelques centaines d’ours polaires,  mais l’implacable message sur les ours polaires condamnés (par la faute de l’homme) est heureusement faux. Il est temps qu’on révèle la vérité aux jeunes.

Voici donc les bonnes nouvelles qu’on doit apprendre aux enfants: les ours polaires n’ont jamais été menacés d’extinction à cause d’un réchauffement global anthropique. Il y a effectivement davantage d’ours polaires qu’il y en avait il y a 50 ans, et la population globale est d’un taille respectable, en dépit du fait que la banquise d’été ait atteint des niveaux ayant dû, selon les prévisions, mener à la catastrophe depuis 2007.

Les ours polaires se sont adaptés admirablement bien à ces niveaux, et contre toute attente, leur nombre a augmenté et non pas diminué au cours des années.

L’ours polaire: Faits et Mythes est un livre scientifique inspirant sur la survie dans l’Arctique qui plaira aussi bien aux parents qu’aux enfants.

À propos de l’auteur: Susan Crockford est une zoologiste professionnelle. Depuis plus de 20 ans elle étudie l’écologie et l’évolution de l’ours polaire. Elle possède un PhD et maintient un blog sur le passé et le présent des ours polaires appelé http://www.polarbearscience.com.

Depuis longtemps, les lecteurs réclamaient un livre clair et simple sur la science de l’ours polaire s’adressant aux enfants comme aux adultes, offrant la même approche rationnelle que celle de ses publications scientifiques pour adultes. Susan leur livre enfin cet ouvrage.

Un livre d’accompagnement (en anglais) est aussi disponible (Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change) présentant des détails bien référencés sur les questions et enjeux récents concernant la conservation de l’ours polaire. Pour les amateurs de fiction, elle propose aussi un thriller sur les attaques d’ours polaires (EATEN: A Novel), également en anglais.


Crockford FM FRONT cover only_German 10 Sept 2017 web size

Der Titel: Eisbären Fakten und Mythen: Eine wissenschaftliche Zusammenfassung für alle Altersgruppen
Der Autor: Susan J. Crockford
Übersetzt von: Marie McMillan
Datum der Veröffentlichung: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976305748

Seitenzahl: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping] CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Kauf es hier: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.de [Germany]; Amazon. ca [Canada]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.fr [France]

Beschreibung auf Deutsch

Vielen Kindern weltweit wurde erzählt, dass es nur noch ein paar hundert Eisbären auf der ganzen Welt gibt. Zum Glück ist die Nachricht, dass der Polarbär dem Untergang geweiht sei (und dass das allein die Schuld der Menschen sei) falsch. Es wird Zeit, dass die Kinder dies erfahren.

Die gute Nachricht, die Kinder hören müssen, ist diese: Eisbären sind nicht vom Aussterben bedroht aufgrund des Klimawandels. Tatsächlich gibt es heute viel mehr Polarbären als vor 50 Jahren und die Population weltweit hat eine gesunde Größe. Und das obwohl das Meereseis seit 2007 ein Niveau erreicht hat, von dem es hieß, dass es katastrophale Folgen haben würde. Eisbären kommen ganz gut mit weniger Meereseis im Sommer klar; entgegen allen Erwartungen ist ihre Zahl über die Jahre gestiegen, sie sind nicht weniger geworden.

Eisbär Fakten und Mythen ist ein ermutigendes wissenschaftliches Buch über das Überleben in der Arktis, welches Kindern und Eltern gleichermaßen gefällt.

Über die Autorin: Susan Crockford ist eine professionelle Zoologin, die seit mehr als 20 Jahren Polarbär-Ökologie und Evolution studiert. Sie hat einen Doktortitel und schreibt einen Blog über die historische und gegenwärtige Situation der Polarbären: http://www.polarbearscience.com. Seit Jahren fragten Leser sie nach einem wissenschaftlichen Buch dass sich auch an Kinder richtet und in gleichsam rationaler und umfassender Perspektive gehalten ist wie ihre wissenschaftlichen Texte für Erwachsene. Dieses Buch ist Dr. Crockfords Antwort.

English version of above descriptions copied below:

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Abrupt summer sea ice decline has not affected polar bear numbers as predicted

Yes, Arctic sea ice has declined since satellite records began in 1979 but polar bears have adjusted well to this change, especially to the abrupt decline to low summer sea ice levels that have been the norm since 2007.

Global pb population size sea ice 2017 July PolarBearScience

Some polar bear subpopulations have indeed spent more time on land in summer than in previous decades but this had little negative impact on health or survival and while polar bear attacks on humans appear to have increased in recent years (Wilder et al. 2017), the reasons for this are not clear: reduced summer sea ice is almost certainly not the causal factor (see previous post here).

Ultimately, there is little reason to accept as plausible the computer models (e.g. Atwood et al. 2016; Regehr et al. 2016) that suggest polar bear numbers will decline by 30% or more within a few decades: even the IUCN Red List assessment (Wiig et al. 2015) determined the probability of that happening was only 70%.

Arctic sea ice has never been a stable living platform (Crockford 2015): it shifts from season to season, year to year, and millennia to millennia. Without the ability to adapt to changing conditions, Arctic species like polar bears and their prey species (seals, walrus, beluga, narwhal) would not have survived the unimaginably extreme changes in ice extent and thickness that have occurred over the last 30,000 years, let alone the extremes of sea ice they endured in the last 200,000 years or so.

Some biologists continue to hawk doomsday scenarios for polar bears due to summer sea ice loss but the truth is that their previous predictions based on sea ice declines failed so miserably (e.g. Amstrup et al. 2007) that it’s impossible to take the new ones seriously — especially since the basic assumptions that caused the first predictions to fail have not been corrected, as I’ve stated in print (Crockford 2017:27):

In summary, recent research has shown that most bears are capable of surviving a summer fast of five months or so as long as they have fed sufficiently from late winter through spring, which appears to have taken place since 2007 despite marked declines in summer sea ice extent.

The assumption that summer sea ice is critical feeding habitat for polar bears is not supported.

Recent research shows that changes in summer ice extent generally matter much less than assumed in predictive polar bear survival models of the early 2000s as well as in recent models devised to replace them (Amstrup et al. 2010; Atwood et al. 2016a; Regehr et al. 2015; Regeher et al. 2016; Wiig et al. 2015), while variations in spring ice conditions matter more.

As a consequence, the evidence to date suggests that even if an ‘ice-free’ summer occurs sometime in the future ­ defined as sea ice extent of 1 million km2 or less (Jahn et al. 2016) ­ it is unlikely to have a devastating impact on polar bears or their prey. [my bold]

The abrupt drop in summer sea ice that occurred in 2007 was not predicted by experts to occur until mid-century yet the predicted decimation of polar bears worldwide expected under those conditions (a loss of 2/3 of the global total, to only about 6660-8325 bears) not only did not happen, it did not come even close to happening (Crockford 2017; see also my recent books, Polar Bear Facts & Myths, and Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change, sidebar).

Instead, the global population grew from about 22,550 bears in 2005 to about 28,500 bears in 2015. And while this might not be a statistically significant increase (due to the very wide margins of error for polar bear estimates), it is absolutely not a decline.

The present reality is that low summer sea ice cover since 2007 has not caused polar bear numbers to decline and therefore, polar bears are not a species in trouble. This suggests that even if the Arctic should become briefly ice-free in summer in the future, polar bears are likely to be only minimally affected and not become threatened with extinction. Polar bears are outstanding survivors of climate change: recent research and their evolutionary history confirm this to be true.

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W Hudson Bay polar bears won’t have an early breakup year, according to sea ice charts

There is still a huge swath of highly concentrated thick first year ice (>1.2m) over most of Hudson Bay this week (19 June 2017) and even in the NW quadrant (the closest proxy we have for Western Hudson Bay), the weekly graph shows levels are greater than 2016, when WHB bears came off the ice in good condition about mid-July. All of which indicates 2017 won’t be an early sea ice breakup year for WHB polar bears.

Hudson Bay weekly ice stage of development 2017 June 19

There is thick first year ice (>1.2m, dark green) in patches along the west coast in the north and south. Thick first year ice also extends into Hudson Strait and Baffin Bay, with some medium first year ice (0.7-1.2m thick, bright green) along the central and southern coasts of WHB.  Note the red triangles incorporated into the thick ice of Hudson Strait in the chart above: those are icebergs from Greenland and/or Baffin Island glaciers. A similar phenomenon has been noted this year off northern Newfoundland, where very thick glacier ice became mixed with thick first year pack ice and were compacted against the shore by storm winds to create patches of sea ice 5-8 m thick.

Compare the above to what the ice looked like last year at this time (2016 20 June, below). There is more open water in the east this year (where few WHB bears would likely venture anyway) but less open water around Churchill and Wapusk National Park to the south than there was in 2016:

Hudson Bay ice age weekly at 20 June 2016

We won’t know for several more weeks if most WHB bears will come ashore at about the same time as last year (early to mid-July) or whether they will be in as good condition as they were last year (because winter conditions may not have been similar).

But so far, sea ice conditions are not looking as dire as the weekly “departure from normal” chart (below, 19 June 2017) might suggest (all that “less than normal” red and pink, oh no!!):

Hudson Bay weekly departure from normal 2017 June 19 Continue reading