More ‘bears on shore’ news today, this time involving a young polar bear that came ashore in the village of Puvirnituq, northern Quebec and was shot for safety reasons by a local hunter.
This incident is reminiscent of one last year a bit further north (Ivujivik) in early March, which I reported here. Both involved young bears from the large and stable Foxe Basin subpopulation. As I’ve pointed out before, most bears in late winter are at their lowest weight and this can make them very dangerous if they come ashore looking for food.
But unlike the Ivujivik incident, was the first time a bear had ever come into the village of Puvirnituq, making it more like the visit in late February 2017 of a young female bear in Inukjuak further south along the coast, the first such visit of a polar bear to that community in more than 30 years.
The exception to lean condition in late winter being the norm are bears in the Davis Strait subpopulation that have harp seals to feed on by February and are often in good condition by early March, as was the bear reported ashore yesterday in Newfoundland.
Puvirnituq, northern Quebec. Polar bears in this region are part of the Foxe Basin subpopulation.
The news today came via an English language blog post that got an essential detail wrong1, so I turned to Google Translate to offer this version of the original, in French (Journal de Montreal, 7 March 2018):
A late-night encounter with a thin and hungry polar bear in the northern Quebec community of Ivujivik in early March was a nightmare-inspiring event.
Reported this morning by NunatsiaqOnline (Nunavik community receives some unwelcome guests, 28 March 2017), the thwarted polar bear attack at the edge of Hudson Bay was the fourth defense kill this year (and the second this month) after a large number of bear sightings by residents this winter.
In contrast to reports of other encounters this winter that involved unusually fat bears for this time of year, this bear was thin and obviously dangerous.
Sea ice development over Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait has been rather unusual this year but what that might mean for polar bears over the coming winter and spring is hard to tell.
Note: The Canadian Ice Service seems to be in the process of updating its sea ice page and graphing features that used to be available weekly on Thursday have not been available until the following week. This means the most recent graphs available are for the week of 11 December (see below).
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged 1992, Davis Strait, El Nino, Foxe Basin, freeze-up, heavy sea ice, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, polar bear, polar bear facts, sea ice, western hudson bay
Fall is the season when polar bears that have spent the summer fasting can return to the refreezing sea ice to resume successful hunting. For polar bears, fall is the second-most important time of year for hunting, after spring.
The date when freeze-up occurs across the Arctic varies from place to place and year to year, but the process is well underway this year. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center’s MASIE map for 20 October 2015 (above) shows 7.7 mkm2 of sea ice, up from the annual low of 4.41 mkm2 almost 6 weeks ago.
From the CBC this morning, we have the report of a female polar bear and her cub paying a visit to an Nunavut campsite near Chesterfield Inlet in northwestern Hudson Bay, which is technically within the boundary of the Foxe Basin polar bear subpopulation.
Maggie Putulik photo, 29 July 2015 Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut.
These are not the desperate bear victims of global warming we have been warned about by polar bear specialists but well-fed curious ursids not averse to an easy meal if there’s one to be had. Such bears are easily deterred by a loud noise. Note this was the second visit by polar bears this Nunavut family had experienced at this location within a three-week period – two other bears had stopped by earlier. Note that ice in this region of Hudson Bay broke up earlier than usual this year yet these bears seem to be in fine condition and can expect the first fall ice of the season (freeze-up) to appear in their neighbourhood, see maps below.
Posted in Polar bear attacks, Sea ice habitat
Tagged breakup, CBC, Chesterfield Inlet, cub, Foxe Basin, freeze-up, Hudson Bay, Nunavut, onshore, polar bear, problem bears, Putulik, sea ice, summer
Since 1971, there has been no year when there was as much ice left on Hudson Bay as there is this year at August 13th, except 1992 – the year when Mt. Pinatubo seemingly affected Hudson Bay ice levels but not any other region in Eastern Canada or the Beaufort Sea. Odd, that – see the graphs below.
Doesn’t mean that much to polar bears, since they will mostly be fasting whether they are onshore for the summer or riding the ice – they primarily live off their fat this time of year. Still, the relative ice levels are interesting because it could impact freeze-up dates later this fall, which will influence the bears’ ability to hunt before the winter fast sets in.
We are seeing one of the extremes in Hudson Bay sea ice variability this year, not only in extent but in distribution of ice. Ice coverage on Hudson Bay this year at 28 July was twice what it was in 2009, the last “late” ice breakup year for which detailed ice maps are available (409 vs. 204 thousand km2), according to NSIDC MASIE ice maps. Canadian Ice Service data show 2015 coverage for the week of 30 July was the highest since 1992.
The odd pattern of ice distribution presents a conundrum. Have a look at the maps and graphs below.
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged breakup, early breakup dates, Foxe Basin, Hudson Bay, icebreaker, NW Hudson Bay, Obbard, polar bear, science, sea ice, Southern Hudson Bay, thick ice, western hudson bay