Posted onMay 3, 2023|Comments Off on 17th century documents & 1970s ice maps show sea ice habitat in Svalbard has always varied greatly
Historical records show that sea ice extent along the west coast of Svalbard, Norway varied greatly in the 1600s and that there is currently more ice than was usually present at this time of year in the 17th century.
April through early June is when polar bears need sea ice the most–for feeding on newborn seals and for finding mates–and so far this spring, bears in the Western European Arctic around Svalbard, Norway have had an abundance of ice. In fact, there is only a little less ice than was normal for the late 1970s and apparently, quite a bit more than was often present in the 1600s.
Posted onApril 23, 2023|Comments Off on Netflix polar bear star dies in Svalbard days after being tranquilized; her orphaned cub is shot
Early in the morning on Good Friday (7 April), a mature polar bear sow with a cub at heal was chased with snowmobiles away from a recreation area used by locals on the west coast but drowned after she escaped into the water. Her cub, likely a yearling male, attacked authorities trying to retrieve her body and was shot.
Posted onApril 22, 2023|Comments Off on Earth Day sea ice habitat during critical spring season for Arctic seals, polar bears, and walrus
This is the most important time of year for Arctic marine mammals that spend time above the ice: birthing, breeding, and feeding. And there is plenty of the right kind of ice available for those activities this year, as there was two years ago at the same time.
Posted onApril 19, 2023|Comments Off on ‘Less ice means more conflicts with polar bears’ narrative not supported by scientific evidence
In another failed prediction, a new study on the number of polar bears killed in self-defense in Svalbard, Norway did not find the expected correlation with lack of sea ice or more tourists (Vongraven et al. 2023). Contrary to expectations, fewer bears were actually killed in self-defence as sea ice declined between 1987 and 2019.
Money Quote from the abstract:
“…ice cover had no significant impact on the odds for a [polar bear] kill.”
“Poor ice conditions for polar bears at Svalbard this year. Low ice will make tough hunting conditions this coming spring. Time to plan for more human-bear conflicts unless conditions change.” [13 Feb 2023 tweet, my bold]
Posted onMarch 16, 2023|Comments Off on Return of Svalbard sea ice in time for seal births and the polar bear feeding bonanza
It seems that every fall and winter for the last decade at least, there has been hand-wringing about the lack of Svalbard sea ice and what a tragedy this is for polar bears. And like clockwork, before the end of winter (30 March) every year, the pack ice returns in time for spring: for ringed and bearded seals to give birth–and for the polar bears to gorge themselves on the fat newborns.
This year there is even ice as far south as Bear Island (Bjørnøya) and it’s only 15 March. This has happened several times now in the last 10 year. So much for the catastrophe! And soon Norwegian biologists will be out checking on the health of these bears, which they do every year and report their results online for everyone to see.
Posted onMarch 12, 2023|Comments Off on Ice-entrapped dolphins in Newfoundland lucky not to have been eaten by polar bears
A small pod of white-beaked dolphins entrapped on Friday (10 March) by a sudden surge of ice along the northern Newfoundland coast were lucky to have been rescued by humans before polar bears could get to them. We know the bears are around, drawn south by the millions of harp seals giving birth to their pups in the area. In April 2014, something similar happened to white-beaked dolphins in Svalbard and they became a welcome meal for at least six polar bears (Aars et al. 2015).
UPDATE 20 March 2023: Another pod of white-beaked dolphins has perished from the ice over the weekend. More than 30 dolphins were trapped near the town of Carbonear, which is on Conception Bay (the next big bay southeast from Trinity Bay), according to CBC News. Given the ice conditions, this is almost certainly a different pod to the one reported on two weeks ago.
Dolphins getting stuck in sea ice is a fairly regular occurrence, said Ledwell. [Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings]
“It’s been happening here forever,” he said, adding it’s not just a problem for dolphins. “It kills blue whale and humpback whales and whatever gets into it.”
Posted onMarch 5, 2023|Comments Off on Early-birthing polar bear female with new cubs out on the ice already in Western Hudson Bay
At least a month earlier than in more northerly areas of the Arctic, the first known female with new cubs-of-the-year has been reported on the sea ice hunting for seals in Western Hudson Bay. Remember this when the cries of “early” breakup of sea ice on Hudson Bay come in the summer: these WH bears routinely get a head start on spring feeding that other bears don’t get.
Posted onDecember 11, 2022|Comments Off on Polar bear habitat update: Winter conditions well on their way across the Arctic except in Svalbard
December is late fall in the Arctic: winter conditions are gearing up but are not in full swing everywhere. Sea ice is developing quickly over Hudson Bay and moving slowly towards the Bering Sea but the Svalbard archipelago is still devoid of pack ice.
Such conditions north of Norway have existed most years since 2005: it’s certainly not a new development for Svalbard to be free of surrounding pack ice in December (although there was lots of ice in 2019 and 2021 by late November). This means traditional denning areas on the eastern islands again cannot be used by pregnant polar bear females, because they must be ensconced in their dens by at least late November or so.
Some seem to think this is a calamity: that such ‘loss of habitat’ is a huge concern for the survival of the subpopulation, if not the entire species. However, the same conditions existed in 2011 and did not result in a dramatic decline in the population as measured in 2015 (Aars et al. 2017) because the bears knew how to respond. They have apparently moved north to make maternity dens on the sea ice or east to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in Russia (Aars 2015). These areas are still within the Barents Sea subpopulation boundaries and researchers have known for two decades that bears have moved around within it (Andersen et al. 2012; Derocher 2005; Maurizen et al. 2002).
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.
You must be logged in to post a comment.