Wandering Polar Bears Are the New Ravenous Polar Bears Mistakenly Attributed to Local weather Change – Watts Up With That?

Reposted by Polar Bear Science

Posted on May 15, 2021 |

In 2017 National Geographic was known to falsely blamed a starving polar bear for climate change, but since then we have been inundated (in relative terms) with stories of “migrating” bears spotted far from the Arctic coast. Strange, these migrating bears are in no way indicative of Arctic sea ice melting or habitat loss as The Times (UK) has claimed in this recent example (polar bear migrates 1,500 miles south as the arctic hunting zone melts) .

Similar to three other recent examples from 2019 – Alaska in winter, Chukotka in early spring, and Siberia in late spring – this month’s example cannot rationally be attributed to a lack of sea ice. This year’s bear took at least eight weeks to travel from the Lena Delta area of ​​the Laptev Sea to a small village in Yakusk, Russia, where it was captured on May 11 by the Daily Mail (May 11).

From the Daily Mail of May 11th.

The bear was spotted several times on its long journey south and apparently survived by eating food for dogs. It was rather thin and hungry when it was caught, but definitely not emaciated. Apparently, it had a number of confrontations with local dogs in Yakutsk and pretty scared the locals in the village of Dzhebariki-Khaya when it showed up for acting aggressively.

According to the Daily Mail account (which has lots of photos and a video in it):

A notable polar bear was finally captured tonight after running a record 675 miles from its Arctic Ocean habitat.

After six weeks of effort, authorities finally caught the beast, who appeared angry that his marathon adventure had come to an end.

In a video you can see the bear angrily shaking his tight cage.

The bear was captured after venturing into a remote Russian village yesterday, causing panic among locals.

Hunters kept the bear at bay for about eight hours after it suddenly appeared in the mining village of Dzhebariki-Khaya. Wildlife specialists flew in from the regional capital of Yakutsk in a helicopter to lure the animal into a cage with seal fat as bait.

… The bear is already famous for its epic travel adventure – but experts aren’t sure why it embarked on this odyssey. The bear was captured the day after it appeared in Dzhebariki-Khaya.

The given timeline means that the bear must have left the Arctic coast near the Lena Delta sometime in mid-March or earlier. See close-up of the area below.

[As a side note, I was in Krasnoyarsk shown on the map above during the summer of 2014: it’s an astonishingly modern city of over a million people in one of the coldest regions of Siberia. I was there to help measure ancient and historic wolf skulls. See my photo below of a group of feral dogs we encountered which were common throughout the city.]

If the Laptev fur seal had left the coast in late March, as appears to be the case, it would have been before the birth of ringed and bearded seals at that latitude. The late winter before the baby seals are born is not only the leanest time of year for polar bears, but also when the sea ice is at its maximum. At the end of March, the Laptev Sea was still covered with 1.5 to 2.0 m thick ice (see table below).

The fact that the bear is supposed to be a young female (maybe 2-4 years old) tells us most of what we need to know. Young bears are inexperienced hunters and often fail to eat enough through the winter when seals are difficult to catch. In addition, it would have been exposed to competition from older, larger bears, who would have constantly driven them away from anything they had caught or could catch (Amstrup 2003; Miller et al. 2006, 2015; Stirling 1974: 1196). Such a competition would explain why she might have turned to land for food rather than sea ice to hunt from.

This means that the “scientists” quoted below by The Times made up nonsense for the media who apparently did not think of questioning it. “Polar Bear Migrates 1,500 Miles South As The Arctic Hunting Zone Melts” (The Times, UK: May 13, 2021):

The melting ice sheet forced the she-bear to make the trip, scientists said when she finally arrived at the coal-mining village of Dzhebariki-Khaya in Russia’s Yakutia region, 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It was the far south that a polar bear saw in Russia, said Ilya Mordvintsev, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, yesterday.

References

Amstrup, SC 2003. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus). In Wild Mammals of North America, GA Feldhamer, BC Thompson and JA Chapman (Eds.), Pp. 587-610. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Miller, S., Schliebe, S. and Proffitt, K. 2006. Demographics and behavior of polar bears feeding on Bowhead whale cadavers at Barter and Cross Islands, Alaska, 2002-2004. Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Study MMS 2006-14, US Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Anchorage. Pdf here.

Miller, S., Wilder, J. and Wilson, RR 2015. Polar bear and grizzly bear interactions during the fall open water season in Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/09/10/jmammal.gyv140
DOI 10.1093 / jmammal / gyv140

Stirling, I. 1974. Midsummer observations on the behavior of wild polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 52: 1191-1198. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z74-157#.VR2zaOFmwS4

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