Posted onApril 19, 2023|Comments Off on ‘Less ice means more conflicts with polar bears’ narrative not supported by scientific evidence
In another failed prediction, a new study on the number of polar bears killed in self-defense in Svalbard, Norway did not find the expected correlation with lack of sea ice or more tourists (Vongraven et al. 2023). Contrary to expectations, fewer bears were actually killed in self-defence as sea ice declined between 1987 and 2019.
Money Quote from the abstract:
“…ice cover had no significant impact on the odds for a [polar bear] kill.”
“Poor ice conditions for polar bears at Svalbard this year. Low ice will make tough hunting conditions this coming spring. Time to plan for more human-bear conflicts unless conditions change.” [13 Feb 2023 tweet, my bold]
Posted onFebruary 6, 2023|Comments Off on Polar bear that mauled to death Alaskan mother and baby was an adult male in poor condition
The veterinarian who examined the bear responsible for the fatal attack in Wales, Alaska, three weeks ago said the bear was an “older” adult male in poor physical condition: the most dangerous bear for anyone to encounter. Recall the armed cruise ship guard who was ambushed and mauled by a desperately thin bear in July 2018 in the Svalbard archipelago–and only survived because his colleague was able to shoot the bear quickly. In this most recent attack, Summer Myomick and her 1-year-old son, Clyde Ongtowasruk didn’t stand a chance as they were ambushed in a driving snowstorm just steps from the safety of the community school they had just left.
Results of a complete necropsy won’t be available for months. Quotes from the news report below.
Posted onJanuary 18, 2023|Comments Off on Two dead in fatal polar bear attack in Alaskan village of Wales on the Bering Strait
Two people tragically died yesterday afternoon after an attack by a polar bear in the village of Wales on the Bering Strait. Few details are available and bad weather apparently hampered officials getting to the village immediately.
As expected, virtually all news reports are implying that a generic ‘lack of sea ice’ can be blamed for the incident. As usual, the specifics of this case show this claim is not only nonsense, but dangerous.
With the loss of sea ice and the ocean staying open later in the year, polar bears have been spending more time on land, which increases the chance of human encounters, said Joseph Jessup McDermott.
Polar bear attacks in winter are almost always associated with a bear that has not been able to resume feeding in the fall. More bears and restricted hunting means more young bears (as well as old bears or sick ones) become food stressed because they can’t compete with big mature males for food. Mature bears often steal any seals that young bears are able to kill, making the youngsters desperate for food.
The Chukchi Sea polar bears are currently thriving and numbers may still be increasing (AC SWG 2018; Conn et al. 2021; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2015, 2018).
More details to follow on this horrific incident as they become available.
UPDATE 18 January 2023, 5:30PM PT: According to an Associated Press account, the victims were a 24 year old woman and her one-year old son: “Summer Myomick of Saint Michael and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, were killed in the attack, Alaska State Troopers said in a statement.”
No more details were provided on the state of the bear involved (sex, age, body condition). Regarding the blame-game, even though recent studies have shown that ringed and bearded seals in the Chukchi Sea are doing very well (Adam et al. 2019; Crawford and Quakenbush 2013; Crawford et al. 2015), Geoff York from Polar Bears International suggests there may not be enough seals for polar bears or the something may be wrong with the sea ice:
In this case, even though there is ice in the Chukchi and northern Bering seas, the quality of that ice is not known that well. More importantly, York said they don’t know what’s going on under the ice — or what the availability of seals and other prey is for polar bears.
The changes are also happening in winter, when people assume they are safe from polar bears being on shore.
Posted onAugust 28, 2020|Comments Off on Fatal polar bear attack in Svalbard unfairly blamed on lack of sea ice
A fatal polar bear attack in Svalbard, in the early hours of 28 August 2020 just outside the main town of Longyearbyen, is being unreasonably blamed on lack of sea ice. Details of the attack show it was made by a three year old male: such subadult bears are historically responsible for most attacks on people and they are known to be especially dangerous. It looks to me like someone should have seen this tragedy coming and stepped in to prevent it.
I will update this story as more information comes in but see below for the details known so far.
Posted onDecember 20, 2018|Comments Off on Biologists escalate conflict over Inuit management of polar bear populations
Yesterday, two polar bear specialists and an inept freelance journalist poured gasoline on the already-volatile issue of polar bear management in Nunavut.
Quote of the day:“I think there’s a reasonable chance that the last polar bear in Canada will be shot by an Inuk hunter.” [Andrew Derocher, University of Alberta]
You have to read it to believe how bad the Yale Environment 360 article by Gloria Dickie (19 December 2018) really is: “As polar bear attacks increase in the Arctic, a search for solutions.” [reprinted 26 December at PBS] The title suggests a balanced treatment of the issue but the reality is far from that: gross inaccuracies in the descriptions of the two fatal attacks that took place this summer that can only be explained by sloppy research and what struck me as unbelievably nasty and racist commentary by polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher. But decide for yourself.
Posted onAugust 28, 2018|Comments Off on Breaking news: One hunter killed, two injured in polar bear attack in Foxe Basin
A man from Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay) has been killed by a polar bear and her cub, and his two hunting companions injured. The party was found today by a search and rescue team on White Island, southeast of Naujaat after they were reported overdue home on Sunday. A total of five bears were destroyed at the scene: the female and her cub responsible for the attack, plus three other bears attracted to the site and still present when rescuers arrived. This is the second fatal polar bear attack in Nunavut this summer (see previous post here). A very sad day indeed.
Excerpts from news reports below and more details to follow on this incident as they become available. Map below shows location of Naujaat, with White Island about 100 km southeast (off Southampton Island):
UPDATE 6 September 2018: According to examination of the bodies, all of the bears involved (apparently only 4, not 5) were in good condition. See post here and news announcement here.
According to the CBC (28 August 2018), five polar bears were destroyed following the attack [my bold]:
Posted onJuly 12, 2017|Comments Off on Polar bear attacks are extremely rare says new study — but the data are incomplete
I did considerable research on polar bear attacks for my thriller of a novel EATEN — which many readers are finding a welcome change from the numbers-and-statistics approach of science — and I have to say that a recently published scientific summary of this phenomenon (1880-2014) authored by biologist James Wilder and colleagues left me speechless (Wilder et al. 2017).
with permission, see EATEN cover.
By attempting to generate information that could be assessed with statistical methods, the authors ended up with data that is so skewed and incomplete that it fails to provide a plausible assessment of the risk to humans of attacks by polar bears. In my opinion, acknowledging that well-reported attacks on Europeans (or recorded by them) make up the bulk of the data used in the paper does not adequately address the weakness of the authors’ conclusions that attacks by polar bears are “extremely rare.”
The paper also focuses much attention on the potential for increases in polar bear attacks on humans due to sea ice loss (blamed on global warming) but ignores totally the increased risk stemming from the larger proportion of adult males that now exist in protected populations. Adult males frequently steal the kills of younger bears and in recovering (i.e. growing) populations, relatively more adult males potentially generate more young males that are nutritionally stressed and at risk of attacking humans (see discussion below).
Finally, no supplementary data is provided to show which records of attacks were included in the study, and no information is provided about how to access the database. How is that possible in this day and age?
Much is made in the paper of the negative effect of polar bear attacks on conservation objectives and the perceived increase in attacks associated with recent sea ice loss. These points were picked up by activist organization Polar Bears International (“Save Our Sea Ice!“) in a press releaseissued yesterday (11 July, pdf here). This has already generated the desired media attention (here and here, likely more to follow, like this) which is predictably focused on predictions of more polar bear attacks on humans due to global warming.
I have a feeling Inuit and other native inhabitants of the Arctic will not be impressed.