Last week, among other events, the first fat polar bear of the season was photographed on shore in Western Hudson Bay, a fat bear was run out of town in South Greenland, and media outlets spread misinformation – apparently preferring global warming hype to rational facts.
1) First polar bears have been seen onshore in Western Hudson Bay in Wapusk National Park near Cape Churchill (map below) on 18 June this year, apparently fat and well prepared for the summer fast. My informants tell me a few bears usually come ashore in June near Churchill before ice conditions make this necessary; the bulk of the population will probably continue seal hunting for a few more weeks. Those bears will come ashore along the southwest coast (near Polar Bear Provincial Park, in Ontario, see Fig. 2 below). They’ll make their way north to the Churchill area in time for freeze-up in the fall. Watch one fat bear caught on camera on 18 June, below :
2) Fat polar bear spotted in Nanortalik, Southern Greenland 18 June 2015, a bit further south than usual. People from the community drove it away, but not before taking lots of pictures.
Some very cool photos, including the one above (taken by Henrik Hansen), worth a look. This bear was in excellent condition, well prepared for the summer fast ahead, whether he ends up spending it on shore somewhere (but not near this community!) or on the sea ice further north in SE Greenland (Fig. 1 below). The ice in that areas is probably broken up (~15-30% concentration) but this is enough for the bear to swim from flow to flow to make it’s way up the northeast coast where most East Greenland bears spend the summer.
Posted in Conservation Status, Summary
Tagged breakup, Churchill, climate change, East Greenland, global warming, grizzly, grizzly bears, habitat, Henrik Hansen, hybrids, Nunavut, polar bear, Polar Bears International, polarbearscience, population estimate, problem bears, radio, sea ice, sea ice declines, Wapusk National Park, western hudson bay, WWF
Yesterday, the BBC published a story that gave the two most alarmist polar bear researchers on the planet a forum to market their ‘polar bears are doomed’ message. This time the desperation shows: watch how these biologists move the goal-posts, make claims so misleading they border on lies, and pretend they don’t have big, big trouble with their predictive models.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Amstrup, average global temperature, Bayesian models, BBC, climate change, Derocher, extinct, future climate, future population decline, global warming, polar bear, sea ice declines, sea ice models
Walruses as polar bear prey and sea ice were on my mind last night and I remembered that we DO have detailed sea ice information for 1978 and 1972 – from the sea ice atlas put together by University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), which has ice concentration maps for Alaska going back to 1850 — and for every year up to 2013 (reported previously here).
Chukchi Sea walrus, June 2014. US Fish and Wildlife Service.
I’ve copied some of the ice maps below.
It is clear that ice was available close to Wrangel Island in 1972 when walruses chose to haul out on the island in huge numbers. And in 1978, there was ice present to the north of the walrus herd, but they had moved away from the ice to get to St. Lawrence Island, where they hauled out in large numbers.
This means it is more likely that food resources were the issue, not sea ice.
UPDATE OCTOBER 3 2014:
See another interesting follow-up elsewhere: Walrus inconsistencies
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat, walrus
Tagged Chukchi Sea, climate change, Fay, global warming, ice levels, Kelly, mass mortality, Point Lay, sea ice atlas, sea ice declines, sea ice maps, St. Lawrence Island, stampede, UAF, walus, Wrangel Island, WWF
Large haulouts of walruses — such as the one making news at Point Lay, Alaska on the Chukchi Sea (and which happened before back in 2009) — are not a new phenomenon for this region over the last 45 years and thus cannot be due to low sea ice levels. Nor are deaths by stampede within these herds (composed primarily of females and their young) unusual, as a brief search of the literature reveals.
The attempts by WWF and others to link this event to global warming is self-serving nonsense that has nothing to do with science.
UPDATE October 3, 2014: See below. Also, do see follow-up posts here, here, and especially, here.
UPDATE October 23, 2014: A briefing paper summary is here and a video version of that paper (“The Walrus Fuss” — 3 1/2 minutes long) here.
There is also a follow-up post on the situation here.
Posted in Advocacy, Sea ice habitat, walrus
Tagged Chukchi Sea, climate change, Fay, global warming, ice levels, Kelly, mass mortality, Point Lay, sea ice declines, St. Lawrence Island, stampede, walus, WWF
It was a good year for polar bear habitat in the southern portions of Eastern Canada this spring – surprisingly, much better than it was in 1968 through 1970. And since spring conditions are what really matter to polar bears, this is good news indeed.
Environment Canada’s Canadian Ice Service recently published a nice little summary that has some rather eye-opening graphs. These describe the conditions for polar bears in the southern Davis Strait subpopulation – the one whose population size increased so dramatically between 1974 and 2007 despite lower-than-average ice extent in some years, even while their body condition declined (see here and here).
[Fitting post for the second anniversary of this blog, I think – more below1]
Note that I’ve added a “Blog Archive” page that lists all of my posts, easier to browse now that there are more than 200 of them.
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged blog stats, Canadian Arctic, Canadian Ice Service, Davis Strait, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, Newfoundland, pack ice, polar bear habitat, sea ice, sea ice declines, sea ice maximum, southern-most polar bears, spring, spring ice conditions, spring ice maximum
Steve Amstrup has left a comment below his January 20, 2014 “starving polar bears’ article at The Conversation, which I discussed in my last post.
I’ve copied his comment below and the response to his comment that I left this morning, which is copied below his. See the entire comment sequence here.
Posted in Advocacy, History, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged activist scientists, advocacy, Amstrup, climate models, global warming, Polar Bears International, sea ice declines, sea ice extent, September sea ice, starving polar bears
Previously, I highlighted new research results that showed, contrary to expectations, polar bears in the Chukchi Sea subpopulation are doing better – despite declines in extent of September sea ice – since the 1970s. So it might not come as much of a surprise to find that the same is true for the primary prey of polar bears in the Chukchi and Bering Seas, Arctic ringed seals (Phoca hispida hispida).
Surprisingly, less than 6 months after Arctic ringed seals were placed on the American list of “threatened” species (under the ESA, see previous post here), actual research in Alaska has shown that declines in sea ice have proven better for ringed seals, not worse.
At a presentation given at the Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium in March (Anchorage, Alaska) [program and links to pdfs here] Justin Crawford, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) presented the results of ringed seal research conducted by himself and fellow ADF&G biologist Lori Quakenbush in the Chukchi and Bering Seas (posted online by the event organizers, see references below).
As for polar bears, the Crawford and Quakenbush presentation provides some very interesting details on the status of Chukchi and Bering Sea ringed seals over the last 40 years, and contains some mighty “inconvenient” conclusions that should raise some eyebrows.
I’ve summarized these details and conclusions below in point form, with a map.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged ADF&G, arctic seals, Bering Sea, body condition, Chukchi, ESA, Justin Crawford, Kelly, Lori Quakenbush, lowell wakefield, Phoca hispida, resilient, ringed seals, sea ice declines, sea ice extent, snow cover, summer ice minimum, threatened species, winter ice maximum