Polar bears in W. Hudson Bay are doing effectively, researchers say. So are the numbers actually happening? – Are you completed with that?
From polar bear science
We have another round of field data – facts – that don’t fit the polar bears are starving narrative. According to polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher, the western Hudson Bay polar bears his team saw collaring and ear tagging in April were in as good condition this year as he said they were last year. There was no spring fieldwork in 2021 and 2020, but in 2019 he also said the bears he saw were in good condition.
Polar bear research in spring 2023 is coming to an end. @ualbertaScience polar bear project had a great season. Satellite ear tag radios will provide months of data. The sea ice was changing very quickly: next week +16 C (61 F) for Churchill, but I hope that doesn’t happen: the bears need cold. pic.twitter.com/PoEF0ZttwP
— Andrew Derocher (@AEDerocher) May 4, 2023
Two years in a row of spring bears in good condition—let alone starving bears—does not fit the picture of a supposedly declining population due to famine. The most recent population census for WH, which attracted much media attention just before Christmas last year, says there has been a 27% decline in numbers between 2017 and fall 2021, despite good sea ice conditions over those five years as well. It’s a confusing situation. I really wonder what this survey report actually says, but it still hasn’t been released five months after the results made headlines around the world.
Hudson Bay polar bears stay west. Purple locations are newly deployed ear tag satellite radios. Bears have been in good shape this spring, but today’s rise in temperature in Churchill is a cause for concern: the ice could melt quickly. Longer ice cover into the summer is good for the bears. pic.twitter.com/TU72m47izd
— Andrew Derocher (@AEDerocher) May 8, 2023
Spring WH bear reports
Andrew Derocher and his team of students from the University of Alberta have been monitoring WH polar bears for years. They go out every spring, in April, to tag and collar bears. Derocher communicates almost exclusively via Twitter, so more than brief snippets of information are rarely provided. Links below to his original tweets:
Spring 2023 – Bears are reported in good condition
Spring 2022 – Bears are reported in good condition
Spring 2021 – no field work, but a population survey was conducted in the fall
Spring 2020 – no field work, but a number of bears did not leave the ice until the 1980s, i.e. mid to late August
Spring 2019 – Bears reported good condition and left the ice in August, still in the 1980s
Sea ice conditions in Hudson Bay
The patch of thick sea ice (>1 m, dark green) over the central part of the bay is not as large as it often is in early May, which could mean that the break-up is earlier than in recent years:
Compare above to 2020 on May 4th: