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It is now apparent that American biologists were quite wrong about how polar bears would respond to abrupt summer sea ice losses

Polar Bears Doing Well Say The Natives


By —— Bio and Archives--April 18, 2018

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Polar Bears Doing Well Say The Natives
Grim predictions of the imminent demise of polar bears have been touted since at least 2001.

Yet tales of doom and gloom about polar bears reflect what some people think might happen in the future, not what is happening right now. Currently, polar bears are doing just fine despite the low summer sea ice coverage they’ve experienced since 2007. In other words, there has been no global population decline as predicted: officially the numbers were 22,000-31,000 (or 26,500 average) in 2015 but about 28,500 when estimates published since then are included. 1

Real world observations by Inuit People crush alarmist claims that polar bears are endangered by reduced sea ice. Such observations have been reported by a number of researchers.

- Jordan York and colleagues reported an extensive analysis relying heavily on native reports that concluded that 12 of 13 Canadian Arctic sub-populations have been stable or growing in recent decades. 2

- Pamela Wong interviewed Nunavummiut and four communities on Inuit experience with polar bears and research perspectives. All participants reported having more bear encounters in recent years than in the past. “Back in the early 80s, and mid 90s, there were hardly any bears…there’s too many polar bears now. Bears can catch seals even if the ice is really thin.” 3

- Brandon LaForest and team reported that a majority of local participants interviewed indicated that the local polar bear population was stable or increasing. Participants cited the fact that polar bears are capable of hunting seals in open water. 4

Even aerial analysis has revealed stable to growing polar bear populations across wide swaths of the Arctic. Jon Aars and colleagues, for example, report that there is no evidence that reduced sea ice has led to a reduction in polar bear populations size. To the contrary, these scientists found that polar bears living near the Barents Sea increased in numbers by 42%, from 685 to 973, between 2004 and 2015. 5

Much of the scientific evidence indicating that some polar bear sub-populations are declining due to climate change mediated sea ice reductions is likely flawed by poor mark recapture sampling and the complex analysis models employed to overcome these capture issues apparently fail to provide accurate estimates of the demographic parameters used to determine sub-populations status. 3

In 2008, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act based on computer models of future polar bear survival and profound summer sea ice loss. These models expected the global polar bear population to decline 67 percent by mid-century, with 10 sub-populations out of 19 worldwide predicted to be extirpated in response to summer sea ice falling well below 2005 levels on a regular basis.

However, ice levels expected to have devastating effects by 2050 have occurred regularly since 2007 and results of studies conducted between 2007 and 2015 confirm that polar bear numbers did not decline as predicted, and not a single sub-population was wiped out. Most sub-populations expected to be at high risk of decline remained stable in size or increased, while another showed marked improvement in body condition, cub production, and cub survival report Susan Crockford and Valerius Geist. 6

It is now apparent that American biologists were quite wrong about how polar bears would respond to abrupt summer sea ice losses. They ignored a known winter/spring survival hazard in the predictive models. The FWS failed its mandate when it allowed predictions to count as evidence on par with data collected from living populations for a critical decision. 6

References

  1. Susan Crockford, “2017 in review: polar bear prophesies of doom more at odds with current reality,” Polar Bear Science, December 29, 2017
  2. Jordan York et al., “Demographic and traditional knowledge perspectives on the current status of Canadian polar bear sub-populations,” Ecology and Evolution, 6, 2897, May 2016
  3. Pamela B. Y. Wong,, “Inuit perspectives of polar bear research: lessons for community-based collaborations,” Polar Record,, Cambridge University Press, 2017, Page 1
  4. Brandon J. LaForest et al., “Traditional ecological knowledge of polar bears in the Northern Eeyou Marine Region, Quebec, Canada,” Arctic 71, 40, March 2018
  5. Jon Aars et al., “The number and distribution of polar bears in the western Barents Sea,” Polar Research, Volume 36, 2017, Issue 1
  6. Susan Crockford and Valerius Geist, “Conservation Fiasco,” Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018

 


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Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.


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