Tag Archives: polar bear

Watch me talk polar bears with Tom Nelson

Recorded 12 August 2022, here’s the full podcast (his ‘#5’), some short snippets of this can be found on Tom’s Twitter feed and a list of his podcasts is here (you may notice I’ve let my curls come out to play!).

‘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.

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Polar bear shot after early morning attack on French tourist camping in Svalbard

There was another polar bear attack on Svalbard this morning, similar to others in previous years. As usual, the body condition of the bear was not mentioned (whether fat or thin) and photos of it were not published. The woman survived, the bear did not.

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Most Hudson Bay polar bears are still offshore, excellent ice conditions for late July

With only a few days until the end of July, most Western Hudson Bay polar bears are still on a thick band of thick first year ice that remains close to shore. The few bears that have come off the ice appear to be nice and fat, indicating they had good spring feeding conditions.

Untagged bear with cub, near Churchill River, 18 July 2022

We’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if this year shapes up as it did in 2020, when the last of bears didn’t come ashore until the third week of August, despite there being very little visible ice. Last year, most of the bears were ashore by the end of July.

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Expert admits polar bears in Svalbard are thriving despite the greatest loss of sea ice in the Arctic

In an article published last week, polar bear specialist Jon Aars is quoted as saying that Svalbard bears are “unexpectedly” thriving. However, he fails short of admitting that the bears don’t really need summer ice as long as they are well-fed in spring, which they have been for the last two decadesthis year included.

Aars said the sea ice in this area is declining more than twice as fast as anywhere else in the Arctic. But the polar bears here — unexpectedly — are thriving. [E. Haavik, Svalbard’s polar bears persist as sea ice melts — but not forever, 21 July 2022; my bold]

Spring 2018, Barents Sea

The suggestion by Aars that the Svalbard archipelago could one day be ice-free for the entire year is speculative hyperbole but even if that were to happen, it would only mean the permanent movement of 300 or so Svalbard bears to Franz Josef Land (still within the Barents Sea) where ice conditions are less volatile.

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New paper polar bears attracted to garbage dumps blames lack of sea ice without any evidence

A paper published yesterday discusses polar bears that get into human garbage and cause other problems due to community attractants. Most of the incidents recounted and the issues they’ve raised have been reported by the media and are ones I’ve discussed here over the last few years in detail, including here and here, as well as in my recent book (Crockford 2019).

Churchill dump 2003. Dan Guravich photo, Polar Bears International handout.

All you need to know about the motivation behind the paper comes from the authors’ acknowledgement:

This paper developed from a meeting in Churchill, Manitoba, in autumn 2019 where the issue of dump use by polar bears arose. We thank Dan Cox [a photographer for PBI] for suggesting exploration of this issue and Polar Bears International for arranging this meeting.

So, six months or so after my book came out in March 2019, in which these issues were discussed in detail, polar bear experts decided it was time to write a paper on the topic. The open access paper, by Tom Smith and colleagues (Smith et al. 2022), is accompanied by an online essay published the same day by the lead author and picked up at least one cheer-leading media outlet via Reuters. See what you think.

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Some of the first polar bears onshore in Western Hudson Bay are in excellent condition

From the live cams installed on beluga tour boats running near the Churchill River, we have some good photos of a few fat polar bears onshore in Western Hudson Bay.

These bears were attracted to the remnants of a beluga carcass with nothing much left on it (lower right in the photo) and stayed around for at least a few days. The female with her cub-of-the-year was remarkably tolerant of an adult male nearby.

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Arctic sea ice still quite abundant for early summer

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, there is still plenty of sea ice over Arctic regions this summer, supplying feeding platforms for polar bears, ice-dependent seals, and walrus cows nursing their young calves. Forget about whether the numbers are below or above some short-term average, there is no catastrophe in the making for marine mammals in the Arctic at this time.

Remember, by early summer, young seals have left the surface of the ice and are in the water feeding; predator-savvy adults and subadults are hauled out on broken chunks of ice moulting their hair-coat. They may look like sitting ducks but polar bears have a hard time catching them because the seals are vigilant and have many escape routes available (due to all the open water). Most polar bears in Hudson Bay are still on the ice (you’ll see why below): the live cams near Churchill set up to watch polar bears are presently showing images of ravens with sea ice in the background, not bears.

This post is predominantly sea ice charts for mid-July, what we in the science field call observational evidence, aka ‘facts’. Keep in mind that satellites used to produce these images have an especially hard time distinguishing ice topped with melt water from open water, which means much more ice useful to these marine mammals is almost certainly present than is shown in the charts (as much as 20% more in some regions).

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First tagged W Hudson Bay polar bear comes ashore

On the 8th July, the first of almost two dozen tagged or collared polar bears came ashore in Western Hudson Bay (WH) under unusual sea ice conditions. How does this compare to previous years?

Image above is from last year (6 July 2021): we haven’t yet had a sighting from the live cams on the shore of Wapusk National Park near Churchill reported at Explore.org.

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Polar bear evolution and recent genetic papers

Two scientific papers in June on polar bear evolution got a bit of media attention but not what the topic deserves. I’ve not written about them because I am currently working on a larger piece putting this conflicting genetic information into full context. Have patience, it’s coming.