Posted onJuly 30, 2023|Comments Off on Repeat of 2013 high-profile Sierra Club polar bear attack, this time with Inuit victims
Almost 10 years later to the day, another polar bear attack resulting in serious injury has taken place in the northern Labrador/Quebec region of Eastern Canada. Remember the Sierra Club lawyer snatched, tent and all, in the middle of the night on 24 July 2013, in an almost-fatal attack that was reported around the world, see here and here? This time virtually the same thing happened to two Inuuk campers on July 26, in the same general area, as reported last week by Nunavut News. This will undoubtedly renew concerns that Davis Strait Inuit have raised about their safety in the face of high population numbers of polar bears (Tomaselli et al. 2022).
Sea ice conditions were similar in both attacks. In 2013, the attacking bear appeared to be a fully adult male in good condition that had been watching the hiking party since the previous day but this year the predatory bear was described as a small “young adult” animal, suggesting it could have been a 3-4 year old female or perhaps a 2 year old male.
Posted onMarch 30, 2023|Comments Off on Southern Labrador coastal landscape dominated by fat polar bears in March
Recent reports out of southern Labrador highlight how common it is to find polar bears onshore at this time of year. The small coastal community of Black Tickle seems to take the prize for the highest number of incidents and sightings but Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the somewhat surprising contender. [see correction below] Photo below is from Black Tickle.
Since early March, polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador have been common. The bears, of course, have come south on the Labrador Sea pack ice looking for fat newborn harp seals, which are now so abundant in the region that nearly a year’s worth of food could probably be consumed in a week or so. It appears that already well-fed bears may look around for what else could be added to their menu or just need a break to digest between meals. Photos of some of the bears sighted are all in good or excellent condition, and few of the animals seem to be intent on causing real trouble for locals–a far cry from the bear that wandered off the ice into Wales, Alaska earlier this year and killed a young mother and her infant son.
Posted onAugust 25, 2022|Comments Off on Inuit are concerned about public safety as Davis Strait polar bears numbers increase
An assessment of the health of Davis Strait polar bears by 35 Inuit polar bear experts was made public two weeks ago. Overall, these experts agree that virtually all polar bears they see are healthy and that the population has been growing over the past few decades, so much so that “public safety has become an increasing concern”. Mainstream media have ignored this report, as far as I have seen.
As we await the latest scientific population estimate of Davis Strait polar bears, completed in 2021 but still not publicly available (only a preliminary gov’t report and a summary graphic from the final report have been released, see Dyck et al. 2019, 2021) this new document (Tomaselli et al. 2022) provides the essential information we need. Polar bears are doing well with no notable changes in cub numbers or survival in the last few decades, abundance is up and reflects a real increase in numbers. There are so many polar bears that communities and individuals feel the need to take extra precautions in protecting themselves from bears.
Oh, and ringed seal numbers are way down: that could be a critical bit of information we won’t get from the polar bear academics.
Posted onAugust 12, 2022|Comments Off on ‘Alone’ and ‘Alone Frozen’ survivor reality show participants were never at risk of a polar bear attack
Spoiler Alert! Participants of the History Channel’s Season 9 ‘Alone’ and its spinoff, ‘Alone: Frozen’ reality shows were never at risk of a polar bear attack despite the marketing hype claiming they were, because coastal Labrador is only ‘polar bear territory’ when pack ice is present offshore, which it wasn’t when the shows were filmed. Shocking, I know!
I happened upon the trailer for the ‘Alone’ series while watching TV one night and the “set in the hunting territory of the mighty polar bear” claim caught my attention. So I watched a few episodes and did some followup. Before the series even ended, there were ads for the spinoff series, ‘Alone: Frozen’, which had even more polar bear hype. Here’s what I discovered–call it a Frivolous Friday post if you like, but I felt it had to be said.
UPDATE Friday 23 September 2022:
The ‘Alone: Frozen’ series concluded last night without a single sighting of a polar bear or even its footprint near the area. In fact, mention of the possibility of a polar bear attack by the participants ceased after the first few episodes, although the ‘narrator’ continued this fiction as part of the storyline. I rest my case.
Posted onApril 30, 2022|Comments Off on Explaining abundant polar bear sightings on the East Coast as an upshot of sea ice loss is absurd
Last week, a senior producer at CBC News, in order to concoct a timely story for ‘Earth Day’, attempted to explain the high number of sightings of polar bears this April in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to the last two years, as a consequence of climate change and its handmaiden, loss of Arctic sea ice.
Title: ‘With an extinction threat looming, no wonder polar bears are at our door — and on the roof: there’s a grim reason why polar bears have been frequently showing up in coastal communities’. CBC News, 23 April 2022
In fact, the two years with the most sightings and problems with polar bears since 2008 were 2017 and 2018: in 2017, sea ice was exceptionally thick in April (although average in extent) and by June the sea ice was so thick and enduring that the Newfoundland fishing fleet couldn’t get out for spring openings; 2018 was another year of average sea ice extent and had even an even larger number of sightings than 2017, in Newfoundland especially (Crockford 2019:32). This suggests the sea ice vs. polar bear correlation on the East Coast since 2008 – if there even is one – may be the opposite of that stated in the CBC article: less ice usually means fewer bears onshore in Newfoundland and Labrador and more ice often means more bears.
Posted onApril 14, 2022|Comments Off on Newfoundland polar bear sighting updates and video
Here is a Youtube video of the incident I wrote about on Tuesday, of the bear that climbed up on an elderly woman’s house in St. Anthony last Sunday and then confronted her when she opened the door.
Statements from local officials included with a follow-up news report of the incident confirms that there were indeed no polar bear sightings along the Labrador coast in 2020 and 2021 and few (if any) along the Newfoundland coast: it wasn’t just a case of reports not making the news. In addition, it also appears that sea ice conditions this year brought an abundance of harp seal pups to the waters off southern Labrador and Newfoundland, which may mean that pregnant harp seals were giving birth further north for the past two years and the Davis Strait bears were simply staying with them.
Posted onMarch 1, 2022|Comments Off on Polar bear encounter with dog in Black Tickle Labrador has a happy ending for both
In the first such report I’ve seen this season, last Sunday a family husky living on the south coast of Labrador met a curious young polar bear in very good condition; the bear left without incident but the family captured video of the encounter. Abundant ice offshore has almost certainly brought a number of Davis Strait bears south ready to feed on newborn harp seal pups, which won’t be available for a few more weeks.
Posted onJanuary 31, 2022|Comments Off on Davis Strait polar bears in Eastern Canada are thriving according to new survey
Pack ice is barreling down the Labrador coast, almost certainly bringing Davis Strait polar bears with it. And according to new survey results, those bears are doing just fine: numbers are stable, bears are fatter than they were in 2007, and cubs are surviving well – thanks largely to abundant harp seals.
Posted onJanuary 13, 2022|Comments Off on East Coast sea ice so far similar to last year
Davis Strait ice pack is slowly moving south this year just as shorefast ice is developing in-place along the Labrador shoreline, similar to last year. East Coast harp seals that give birth in the region in March depend on this ice and so do many Davis Strait polar bears that feed on those newborn seals. In contrast, in 2017 the ice off Labrador was broader by mid-January (even more so by mid-February) and that seems to have made a huge difference by April, when ice north of Newfoundland was thick and extensive.
Compared to last year at this time, there was somewhat less ice along the Labrador coast but the difference is really negligible. By April, ice extent was well below average, especially in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and there were few sightings of polar bears along the Labrador and Newfoundland coasts.
Back in 2017 at the same time (below), the band of ice along the southern Labrador coast was much broader, indicating more movement of Davis Strait ice from the north. This resulted in so many polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador by March and April that I could hardly keep up reporting them (Crockford 2019:32):
East coast conditions could change significantly over the next few weeks however, especially if weather conditions bring more north winds.