Posted onJanuary 12, 2023|Comments Off on Recent paper on W. Hudson Bay polar bears includes new official sea ice freeze-up data
Even though it’s in graph form only, we finally have an update on sea ice freeze-up dates for Western Hudson Bay for 2016-2020 (but not breakup dates).
This graphed data published by Miller et al. 2022 extends by five years that published in 2017 by Castro de la Guardia and colleagues, which contained graphed data for breakup and freeze-up dates from 1979-2015 (with exact dates for 2005-2008 only).
It confirms a statement I made last month, that between 2016 and 2021 “there has been only one ‘late’ freeze-up year (2016)–but five very early ones.” Of course, 2021 was not included in this new dataset, so that would be “four very early ones” up to 2020.
Posted onNovember 28, 2022|Comments Off on Polar bear specialist calls Hudson Bay freeze-up ‘late’ yet bears were moving offshore 2 weeks ago
Predictably, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher has finally posted a tracking map of the Western Hudson Bay bears his team has fitted with collars and eartags–two weeks after bears were released from Churchill’s polar bear jail, which is the local signal that there is enough sea ice for bears to leave shore. As I reported two weeks ago, release of jailed bears happened this year on 10 November. And as I predicted in that post, by waiting so long after that event to post his map, Derocher can make it seem to his naive followers on Twitter that the bears are just starting to leave now (the last map he posted was on 11 November, when none of his bears had moved). He reinforces this by calling WH freeze-up “late”, when by all objective measures (including local informants reporting bears on the ice) it was as early as it had been in the 1980s (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017).
Recall that fall is the second-most important feeding season for polar bears, due to the fact that seals are strongly attracted to newly-forming sea ice. It’s their chance to regain some or all of the weight lost over the summer, before the long winter fast begins (while bears indeed hunt when they can, they are not often successful during the depths of the Arctic winter: most bears are at their lowest weight by March).
Posted onNovember 24, 2022|Comments Off on Eastern Canadian Arctic has much more sea ice than usual while Svalbard polar bears deal with less
Svalbard is still ice-free this fall, which it has been rather consistently for at least ten years but the amount of sea ice greater than ‘normal’ in the Eastern Canadian Arctic at this date is something to behold. Yet contrary to predictions, polar bears in Svalbard are thriving.
Posted onNovember 17, 2022|Comments Off on Hudson Bay sea ice freeze-up in 2022 like the 1980s for the 5th time since 2015
This is the fifth year out of the last seven that enough sea ice has formed along the west coast of Hudson Bay by mid-November for bears to be able to head out to the ice, just as it did in the 1980s.
One of the independent polar bear guides on the ground near Churchill had this to say about the bears and freeze-up conditions this year:
“Bears started leaving on November 10; conservation emptied the jail on the 10th as well.”
‘The jail’ is the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program’s ‘holding facility’. While the Alert program folks have not released a report for this week (gee, I wonder why?), nearby tourist outfit Great White Bear Tours not only confirmed the bears were released from jail but posted a picture of a ‘green dot bear’: the mark put on problem bears released from the holding facility to keep track of them. Bears are not released before there is ample ice along shore for them to move out. Great White Bear Tours have been tracking bears moving offshore.
This information suggests the average date for bears leaving shore will likely turn out to be 12-14 November, again earlier than the average for the 1980s (16 Nov +/- 5 days) (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017). That makes five out of the last seven years (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) since 2015 that bears have left about the same time as they did in the 1980s.
While there are still be a few bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park that seem to be in no hurry to leave, a few stragglers doesn’t mean there isn’t ice available for hunting.
Posted onOctober 18, 2022|Comments Off on Western Hudson Bay polar bears waiting for the sea ice to freeze as tourists flock to watch
Should only be a few weeks more until the ice forms along the western shore of Hudson Bay, it’s already been snowing. But for the tourist outfitters around Churchill, this is their time to profit from those willing and able to spend big money to see polar bears up close.
Posted onOctober 4, 2022|Comments Off on Good news update out of W Hudson Bay: fat polar bears are behaving themselves
Despite continued dire predictions of catastrophy, polar bears in Western Hudson Bay are behaving like the well-fed predators on holiday they are: bears are causing few problems in Churchill and poking around Arviat, seemingly out of curiousity rather than actively stalking prey.
Bears are chased out of Western Hudson Bay communities due to an abundance of caution but so far, no frightening encounters have been reported that I’ve heard about. That’s true elsewhere as well: an uneventful summer for polar bear attacks is good news indeed.
Moreover, considering that 2021 fall ice formation for the Arctic in general is well ahead of 2016 (and every year since, except 2018), it’s hard to see why human-caused global warming caused by ever-increasing CO2 emissions explains the slow freeze-up of Hudson Bay. Timing of Hudson Bay freeze-up has always been highly variable from one year to the next (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017: Fig. 3, copied below). The average freeze-up date in the 1980s was 16 November ± 5 days, while from 2005-2015 this had shifted about a week to 24 November ± 8 days (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017:230). This year freeze-up was later than usual but last year and the three years before that the ice froze as early as it did in the 1980s. Cue the zombie apocalypse.
UPDATE 11 December 2021: see chart below from Andrew Derocher on the position of tagged WH bears at 10 December.
Posted onNovember 26, 2021|Comments Off on Sea ice cometh to Hudson Bay: freeze-up has begun
Although it may take until the end of the month for all Western and Southern Hudson Bay bears (except for pregnant females) to have returned to the ice, freeze-up has finally begun in earnest and today some bears are already heading out to resume feeding before winter sets in. This is 3.5 weeks later than last year when WH bears were first spotted have killed a seal on 31 October.
Posted onOctober 15, 2021|Comments Off on No signs of a climate emergency for W. Hudson Bay polar bears this year ahead of UN climate meeting
I’ve been told that another complete aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation (from the Nunavut to Ontario boundaries) was conducted in August this year and that the bears have been hanging out further south than usual. It will be years before the results of the population count are published, of course (especially if it’s good news) but my contacts also say virtually all of the bears are in great condition again this year.
Posted onDecember 17, 2020|Comments Off on The conundrum of Hudson Bay bears that left shore late in 1983 with video from CBC archives
In 1983, it was claimed that freeze-up of Hudson Bay was so late that polar bears didn’t leave the shore until the 4th of December – several weeks later than had been usual at that time. However, the fact that sea ice charts show significant ice offshore weeks before that time suggests something else was probably going on.
About three weeks ago, CBC News republished an article (with video) from their 1983 archives for 1 December, about the plight of the people of Churchill who had already suffered one death and one serious mauling by polar bears. That was thirty-seven years ago, long before lack of sea ice was blamed for everything bad that happened to Western Hudson Bay polar bears. In fact, rather than a really late freeze-up, it appears the problem had more to do with the fact the bears had had an especially tough spring that year and arrived onshore in only ‘OK’ condition – and as a consequence, the town dump became such a strong attractant for many bears that they were reluctant to leave when the sea ice formed offshore.
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