The "precarious state of the U.S. polar bear population"

Today’s MSM is woefully inept at catching mistakes. Worse, reporters are often woefully inadequate at getting facts straight in the first place. And, with instant electronic distribution, it is much like the imaginary Roman vomitorium; eat, regurgitate, rinse, and repeat.

Yesterday’s LA Times story on the Obama administration deciding not to use polar bears as a global warming tool that we covered on WUWT had this howler:

“…the precarious state of the U.S. polar bear population…”.


Polar bear populations may in fact may be larger than they were decades ago.

“In the 1950s the polar bear population up north was estimated at 5,000. Today it’s 20- to 25,000, a number that has either held steady over the last 20 years or has risen slightly. In Canada, the manager of wildlife resources for the Nunavut territory of Canada has found that the population there has increased by 25 percent.”

Even if the data from the 50’s is a “guess” it doesn’t take much brainpower to realize that if they are now protected, and hunted less, the population will increase. There’s precedence stories like this for many rebounding animal populations that are now protected.

In fact, there appears to be “no impact” on polar bears at all, according to this testimony before congress (PDF, from page 3)

“…Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), where both agencies issued “no jeopardy” biological opinions.”

It seems many other news outlets were content to pickup and regurgitate this story. A Google search on the phrase yields 283 results (as of 9AM today) and some big name media names are attached, like the Chicago Tribune.

283 Google results on that phrase as of 9AM 5/9/09

To be fair, I missed the funny twist too. But sharp eyed WUWT reader Paul Coppin caught it and wrote:

I guess as a Canadian, I have to say “what U.S. polar bear population’? The couple dozen in US zoos?


Journalism is dead.

Of course there’s polar bears in Alaska, which is what the article should have said rather than “U.S.”, but as we’ve seen they seem to be doing just fine in the great state of Alaska.

The level of ridiculae surrounding the polar bear “plight” was kicked off by that master of disaster Al Gore, with his swimming, drowning, polar bear animated characterization in “An Inconvenient Truth”. See it below about halfway in.

Gore later added to that distortion by making use of this photo:


Astute readers may recall seeing a photo flashed around the world earlier this year of polar bears “stranded” on an ice cube at sea. Please follow this link to the original photographer. See the bottom right photo.

A Canadian blogger, Carole Williams, tells the story behind this picture, which was taken in 2004 just off Alaska by a marine biologist on a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute project, Amanda Byrd.  As the marine biologist (Byrd) points out, the bears were in no danger so close to the coast (they can swim 30 miles).

She just wanted a photograph more of the “wind-sculpted ice” than of the bears. Byrd writes:

“[You] have to keep in mind that the bears aren’t in danger at all. It was, if you will, their playground for 15 minutes. You know what I mean? This is a perfect picture for climate change, in a way, because you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die with a coke in their hands. But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim.”

The image was copied from the ships computer (where Byrd had downloaded the camera flash memory stick to) by another member of the shipboard research crew and passed on to Environment Canada. Then it was eagerly adopted by many as an example of the fate that awaits the polar bears – including Al Gore, who used the picture as huge projected backdrop in one of his highly lucrative lectures.

Gore said:

“Their habitat is melting,”  “beautiful animals, literally being forced off the planet.”

Audience: [gasp!]

Yes, it melts every summer.

Read all the details of the story behind the photo, here and here. It seems that a lawsuit is brewing and Canada has some pretty hefty copyright laws.

But you can also make a buck off polar bears. I had to chuckle, because now WUWT’s Google ads have put me square in the employ of “Big Bear”.


Gosh, I feel dirty, exploiting nature like that and all.

Well anyways, with all the hype over the polar bear plight, and the exploitation of the poor cuddly beasts to make a buck, perhaps we should suggest that all future newspaper articles make use of this stock photo:

polar bear BBQ

After all the juxtaposing of the penguin and the polar bears is about as factual as

“…the precarious state of the U.S. polar bear population…”.

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Neil Jones
May 9, 2009 10:06 am

US polar bears?…That must be Alaska then.

May 9, 2009 10:30 am

“A commonly held, but false, belief is that Ancient Romans designated spaces called vomitoria for the purpose of actual vomiting, as part of a binge and purge cycle.”
REPLY: Touche’. I’ve updated the post to reflect this. Here, unlike the MSM, mistakes get corrected quickly, thanks to the thousands of eyes like yours and instant publishing. – Anthony

Bill Jamison
May 9, 2009 10:31 am

It’s no accident that environmentalists worked hard to get the polar bear listed as endangered even though their numbers aren’t shrinking:
Both sides agree that conservationists finally have the poster species they have sought to use the Endangered Species Act as a lever to force federal limits on the greenhouse gases linked to global warming, and possibly to battle smokestack industry projects far from the Arctic.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “And then there is the polar bear.”,0,1292418,full.story
They needed a cute cuddly animal to be the poster animal for climate change and they decided the polar bear was that animal.
I’m glad that the Obama administration will continue the Bush administration policy preventing using the ESA from being used to limit CO2 emissions.
The Interior Department on Friday let stand a Bush administration policy barring the federal government from using the precarious state of the U.S. polar bear population as a reason to crack down on global warming, upsetting environmentalists and cheering oil and gas companies.,0,4415244.story

Bill Yarber
May 9, 2009 10:40 am

Priceless! The vast ignorance of the MSM never ceases to amaze me.

May 9, 2009 10:49 am

To use a graphic from the Bad Astronomer’s blog:
“The stupid, It burns!”

Just The Facts
May 9, 2009 10:59 am

The mainstream media seems to have become so reliant on sensational headlines and scare stories that they are now incapable of just reporting the facts. If you want the facts, you have to go searching for them yourself.
An interesting look back at when BBC was still capable of reporting facts:
One thing that we can all do to help introduce more facts to the MSM is to get Google News to add WUWT as a news source. I’ve noticed that is included, so it seems reasonable that WUWT be included as well. If you agree, please let Google know your thoughts here:

Ron de Haan
May 9, 2009 11:11 am

This is what I call journalism. Good job.
It’s a pity that real journalist, eager to present a story from both sides are whistled back because the Editor has his “instructions”.
This story tells it all. How the public is screwed and objective journalism is suppressed in the USA in the year 2009!
(I would have quit on the job.)

May 9, 2009 12:11 pm

Polar bears eat ringed and bearded seals year ’round. With the seal’s habitat at risk, the ability of the polar bear to eat the seal cubs is diminished….keeping both species in balance.
Why don’t we see images of the poor baby seals being eaten by the deadly polar bear…evoking outrage from the very same animal lovers wanting to save the polar bears?

Dave Andrews
May 9, 2009 12:12 pm

Has anybody thought of the problem of defining ‘US polar bears’ as opposed to Canadian and Russian polar bears as I understand the two populations in Alaska move around quite a bit and sometimes become inhabitants of the other countries.
Do we need a polar bear immigration service? 🙂

Gordon Ford
May 9, 2009 12:27 pm

From link above yo “Polr Bears International”
At the end of Dr Derochers rambling statement there is this observation.
“At the end of the day, the sea ice is disappearing. Take away the habitat and the species follows shortly thereafter (or before).”
Which can be interpreted as “Polar Bears dissipperance causes arctic sea ice to melt!”
No wonder the public is confused.

May 9, 2009 12:36 pm

Interestingly when I followed the links to the original picture, the caption below it now reads that the polar bears are “90 miles off the coast”. That deserves a serious WUWT????

May 9, 2009 12:59 pm

DoctorJJ (12:36:17) :
Yes. 90 miles off the coast and you get wave carved ice! Sheesh.

Arn Riewe
May 9, 2009 1:02 pm

This is a re-post from the last thread, but I thought there was an important link for those who are looking for scientific resource info on polar bears
chris y (06:44:48) :
“Dr. Taylor and Dr. Dowsley published a nice overview of their opinion of the status of global polar bear populations and their alleged imminent extinction due to climate change.”
I’ve read this through recently. Well worth the time. The interesting part is that Dr. Taylor doesn’t try to fight the global warming theory, but uses the IPCC ice estimate for the analysis. Using AGW data, he still determines the polar bears are not in any forseeable danger of extinction.
Let’s see… Should I trust the PR efforts of WWF and Greenpeace or a researcher that has been studying polar bears for 30 years? Hmmm…

John F. Hultquist
May 9, 2009 1:04 pm

I’ve read that editors of magazines and groups with an eco-agenda get together and decide on a cute and cuddly target animal for the up-coming year’s activities. Thus, you see the same animal everywhere for a year and then they switch to a new one the following year. The impact is greater this way because people see the endangered (or not) cuddly one just about every waking hour. How can you not think it is about to starve, drown, boil, bake, or burst!
The Coke site is fine and I enjoy their polar bear adds. Coke popularized the red-green-jolly Santa Clause (didn’t invent him though) and likewise they have made one of the world’s most opportunistic and aggressive predators (read that as they will attack you) seem warm, fuzzy, and huggable.
I’d not seen the juxtaposing of the penguin and the polar bears with the latter barbequing the former. Although not having skinned it, I wonder if they dressed it out? How was that used? Just a funny or was it an ad for something?
How many times can I click on a link to an ad before they block me? I had one yesterday that took me to a site promoting the Copenhagen meeting in December. Did I feel dirty exploiting that? Not a chance!
This is sort of fun, in a funny sort of way. John

Neil Jones
May 9, 2009 1:17 pm

I have just checked (10:33 PM CET) the link to the original photo the caption read “Mother polar bear and cub on interesting ice sculpture carved by waves. photo © Amanda Byrd. For information on licensing this image, contact AlaskaStock.”
Where di you get to?

Julius StSwithin
May 9, 2009 1:41 pm

There is a strong link between hunting and the increase or decline of bear sub-population. If “removals” are less than 3% they tend to increase or be stable; if more than 4 % they tend to decline.
See: and click on “Polar bears”

Mike McMillan
May 9, 2009 1:44 pm

We’re being duped, folks. That bottom polar bear image is obviously Photoshopped. Examine the original closely, and you’ll see those bottles aren’t CocaCola. And are those Camels they’re smokin’ ?

May 9, 2009 1:51 pm

Environmentalists are utilising Yellow Journalism to promote Green propaganda.
The Maldives, polar bears, penquins, you name it, all are being exploited to mislead the public on global warning. It is of no concern to these eco-warriors that facts are being misrepresented or lies are told, for them the end always justifies the means.
What is the point of saving the environment when it is the Greens ultimate plan is to criminalise dissent and to make slaves of us all.

May 9, 2009 1:59 pm

Always this uni-species protection stuff. First they protect all the mountain lions. They multiply, need more food, and then they protect all the deer in town. So where do the mountain lions come for food? Town. Your dog, cat, neighbors kid, etc.
Nice kitty, kitty.
They should be watching Wild Kingdom where these things eat and get eaten, and not the Warm Fuzzy Polar Party Bear commercials drinking cokes.
Of course the Polar Bears pop. explodes when you protect it.
Wasn’t that what they wanted?

May 9, 2009 2:09 pm

How can I get a higher res picture of the polar bear BBQ? I want to use it for my desktop background!

May 9, 2009 2:14 pm

I’ve found a place where they sell polar bear skin rugs. Note the price appears to have fallen too… wonder why that is?

May 9, 2009 2:24 pm

A cuddly Polar bear catching and eating a seal:

Leon Brozyna
May 9, 2009 2:25 pm

Went to Google to see what I could see by typing in, “the precarious state of the U.S. polar bear population.” Lo and behold I find that WUWT is the very first item cited — this very article!!

Steve Keohane
May 9, 2009 2:29 pm

Man’s attempts to manage nature are pretty miserable. I can only have low expectations for the results. When the post was made recently here about Waxman and the hearing where Gore spoke and Mockton was locked out prompted the following image, enhanced by Waxman’s loony rant about the ice caps evaporating and the tundra being held down by the ice caps. Imagine the SSN Waxman ‘surfacing in the tundra’ to rescue polar bears…

May 9, 2009 2:31 pm

Just to put the cute cuddly polar bears in perspective, this went around the internet a year or two ago:
Position: Alaska Surveyor
Salary: $200 per hour (tax-free)
Qualification: Must be fast on your feet

May 9, 2009 3:12 pm

Polar Bears are on the Species of Interest / Threatened Species Lists in respectively in Canada and the USA, it means that if there is a sudden drop in population the animal will be listed auotmatically.
Do not hold your breath for the sudden drop because the seal population is approaching an all time high, so even if the ice melts the bears can walk across the backs of millions of seals maving through the open water.
Side note on species protection and seals, the EU banned trade in seal products which effectively will stop the Canadian Seal Hunt if ratified and in the same document authorized a 30,000 seal culling in Norway. The end result is… It is ok to kill them, but only if nobody makes a buck on it, welcome to “Crazy World” population 6.8 Billion.

Mike McMillan
May 9, 2009 4:25 pm

Pete (14:09:00) :
How can I get a higher res picture of the polar bear BBQ? I want to use it for my desktop background!

I linked this above, but it’s animated gif image, and I don’t know it this is the original source. It’s 555×337 pixels, but if you “stretch” it for a background, it will fit. There is an email address in the image, presumably of the perpetrator, but it’s difficult to read.

May 9, 2009 4:29 pm

Reporters do just that: report. So it doesn’t surprise me that they make so many basic errors, especially in matters of science, because they just rely on what they’re told and the prevailing meme/wind of the day.
Maybe, in addition to the AP Stylebook, they need a constantly updated BASIC FACTS ABOUT SCIENCE AND EARTH book to carry around.

May 9, 2009 4:30 pm

I nominate you to begin this organization! The Chico E-R can be the pilot client.

Les Francis
May 9, 2009 6:42 pm

Saltwater crocodiles were once a hunted species in the North of Australia. They became protected. Now they are out of control. Several people have been taken by crocodiles in the last few months.
There is now talk of introducing a crocodile safari tax of $6000.00. Tourists with the appropriate funds will be able to hunt certain dangerous species.
At one point a few yaers ago the “scientific consensus” was that the ‘Saltie’ was in danger of extinction.
A few reasons not to go sea swimming in the tropical areas of Australia.
(a) crocodiles ( they grow up to 5 metres)
(b) Sharks
(c) Sea snakes,
(d) Portuguese man o war
(e) A myriad of other poisonous species.
Swimming requires a swimming pool – and watch out for the crocs – they invade these also.
With apologies to the late Steve Irwin (a case in point).

Fat Man
May 9, 2009 6:50 pm

“Polar bears eat ringed and bearded seals year ’round. With the seal’s habitat at risk, the ability of the polar bear to eat the seal cubs is diminished”
The seal’s habitat is not at risk. Neither are the bears. The bears, being bears will always find something to eat. Bears are not picky eaters. They will even eat environmentalists.
The seals are mammals. They live off fish in the sea, but they need dry land, because they cannot breathe water. If there is no ice to hang out on, they will happily rest on land.

layne Blanchard
May 9, 2009 8:21 pm

You know, it’s all about the cuteness of polar bears. They’re just so white and fluffy looking. Especially the little ones. ….. when they aren’t covered in blood anyway. We need a competing animal, and I think the Koala is just the ticket! They need our protection! Now if we can just expand their habitat, all will be right with the world….

May 9, 2009 8:30 pm

I have been to Churchill and seen the Polar bears first hand, which congregate there in late September and October. They are closely related to Grizzly and may even be able to breed with them.
I wonder how many AGW evangelists would actually bother to go see them and learn about them. And yes there are an increasing number of them – they are protected and first nations can only take a few. They even have Polar Bear prisons up there where they keep the most unruly and troublesome ones (they don’t simply shoot the troublemakers anymore) – they stay in prison until the ice forms over Hudson’s Bay and they can be released to chase after Seal sandwiches.
It is an experience I highly recommend.

May 9, 2009 9:20 pm

Jeremy, I too have been there. I agree that it is well worth the trip. The Hudsons Bay Bear population is probably the only one in the world that is not significntly growing at the present time. If one takes a look at a map they would notice that these bears are well south of what is considered “the arctic” and probably have fully populated the area. Most Polar Bear populations will not suffer even if the Goracle’s worst case scenario comes to pass. Quite the sham.

May 9, 2009 10:38 pm

re Leon Brozyna (14:25:46)
This can be a very powerful weapon in the AGW fight. Did you know that 85% of people who do Google searches do NOT go past the first page AND that 50% of people who do Google searches click on the first link.
With WUWT having so many sites referencing it, it therefore appears highly on the Google algorithm. Therefore the more titles of articles you have that reflect closely on issues found elsewhere in the media, there will be more likelihood that WUWT will appear highly in any Google search. Eg if you had an article title as “Arctic Ice disappearing” as opposed to “Arctic Ice Recovering”, you will still get the same message across but be more likely to be found by either the MSM or general population when doing a Google search as their searches will more often reflect a belief in the alarmist position. Just a though anyway.

Leon Brozyna
May 9, 2009 11:16 pm

Polar bears – cute & cuddly?
Go to Google, type in polar bears eating, then check out the images. Let’s see those images on stories about the polar bear instead of the poor, forlorn images that are being used.

John Miles
May 9, 2009 11:40 pm

Sorry, the first post had problems with the way I quoted the relevant material. Here’s another try:
I followed the pdf link you have above where you indicated the following as the conclusion from that Congressional testimony:

In fact, there appears to be “no impact” on polar bears at all, according to this testimony before congress (PDF, from page 3)

I’m not sure if you collected the link yourself, but you should at least do due diligence when citing sources, otherwise you put your credibility at risk.
The full passage refers to a single lease sale for oil and gas in the ocean off of Alaska’s northwest coast, not to any comprehensive statement about the polar bear populations. Likewise, the reference quoted states that the leasing of the area, itself, will cause “no jeopardy” to the polar bear population in that specific area (the lease area is in the ocean, after all, though I understand that onshore facilities would be required). The full quote follows:

“[Lease] Sale 193 [in the Chukchi Sea planning area] was originally scheduled for June 2007, but we delayed the sale until February 2008 to provide sufficient time to complete the environmental analyses, which include an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), where both agencies issued ‘no jeopardy’ biological opinions.”

I’d just prefer not having to follow links to verify correctness when reading a blog and assume that the blog author has already done the necessary, even if cursory, research on sources. It’s a simple matter of maintaining the integrity and credibility of the site. Without it, you merely confirm the ad hominem attacks of those who declaim your blog and affirm (catastrophic) global warming is a man made disaster.
I’m willing to be convinced by either side (though I’m a strong skeptic at this point in time) as long as I know I have the /facts/ at my fingers.
I do appreciate that it’s a great deal of work to keep up a blog such as this one along with your other time requirements.

Jack Simmons
May 10, 2009 2:11 am

Fat Man (18:50:43) :

“Polar bears eat ringed and bearded seals year ’round. With the seal’s habitat at risk, the ability of the polar bear to eat the seal cubs is diminished”
The seal’s habitat is not at risk. Neither are the bears. The bears, being bears will always find something to eat. Bears are not picky eaters. They will even eat environmentalists.

Fat man,
This has already started. Every year we have an outdoors sportsman show here in Denver. There is a large number of hunting lodges and the like at every show. Many of these hunting lodges are up in Canada, including the Hudson Bay area.
I asked one of guides what changes he has seen in the last thirty years. I didn’t prejudice his answer by asking if he has seen any evidence of global warming, just what changes has he seen.
His response:
Ice out on the rivers comes earlier in the year.
Ice over on the rivers comes later in the year.
Polar bears are moving inland to feed on the caribou.
Yes, polar bears are bears first and polar second. They will eat what is available. I’m sure if pressed into it, they will eat grasses and berries just as other bears do.

May 10, 2009 2:16 am

Fat Man (18:50:43) :
The seals are mammals. They live off fish in the sea, but they need dry land, because they cannot breathe water. If there is no ice to hang out on, they will happily rest on land.
Yes, Grey Seals (I think is’s them) on the Scottish coast have white pups which was to blend in with the now very rare (hopefully remaining so) snow and ice. Fortunately for them there are no bears Polar or otherwise to pick off easy targets. Although Fish Farmers are in a bit of hot water over seal culls.

May 10, 2009 8:26 am

John Miles (23:40:12).
While the testimony Anthony cites is specific to the lease sale, the conclusions they make draw on their regional studies concerning the state of polar bears in the Arctic. Check the bottom of page four for a statement on the scientific work they are drawing on to conclude that there is no current threat to the US polar bear polulation, including the Chukchi Lease sale.

May 10, 2009 10:09 am

Pity those polar bear. I wonder how they are going to survive this.

May 10, 2009 11:14 am

That’s what they get for stealing our Coca Colas.

Douglas DC
May 10, 2009 12:11 pm

I’m reminded of an old T-shirt I had back in my Aerial Firefighting days.It had a Grizzly Bear,picking his teeth with a femur,feet resting on a Human Skull it said:
” Wyoming-Send more tourists,the last ones were delicious !”…

May 10, 2009 2:42 pm

The “Pizzly Bear” is real:–polar_bear_hybrid
The “species barrier” is more like a “mating speedbump” for most related species. Recent work on coyote and wolf populations has shown several types of wild canine to probably be various odd crosses. The red wolf, for example.
There are similar problems across most genera. (Cruciferous vegetables are notorious for this – Green Glaze collards being a cabbage/kale cross – and plum / prune / peach etc are pretty “loose” too. Oh, and citrus. The “tangelo” is a grapefruit tangerine hybrid…) Basically, most of the “barrier” seems to be physical location or behaviour isolation. Given contact and not much choice a lot of species will cross with “nearby relatives”… That’s part of how Darwin works…
This has caused certain “issues” for the application of the endangered species act… So is the Pizzly a new endangered species, or not?…
I don’t remember the whole story, but as a youth there was a joke that was used to educate us about the nature of bears that basically said something like:
An airplane crashed in the forest, and was found by bears.
Why did the pappa bear tell the cub that an airplane was like a Crab?
Because once you get the shell open, the insides are tender and tasty!
BTW, the “protect the mountain lion / cougar” law in California has now resulted in lots of pets becoming lunch… and in selected areas folks are encouraged not to leave small children playing outside in the yard. There was a local TV news story (east SF bay near Vallejo Mt. Diablo? somewhere up there) showing fearful folks with missing pets, goats, small farm animals,…
There have been mountain lions spotted overlooking jogging trails (near Palo Alto? Somewhere on the S.F. peninsula IIRC) and some mysterious disappearances have been suggested as perhaps lion related.
Eventually folks will discover that having a very intelligent very large and very hungry top predator expanding in population without limit is maybe not “good for children and other living things”…
For now, though, if you want to go hiking or camping and would prefer not to become “lunch” you can risk going to jail for any firearm you might carry, and if you actually use it, you will get lots of fines and more jail time.
The suggested solution? Shout and wave your arms. Honest. (They did suggest not running away due to the stimulating nature of that act… ) Pepper Spray is suggested to maybe work. Hope “kitty” doesn’t like chili meat…
When I was a kid, we were specifically instructed in the importance of taking a gun capable of stopping lion and bear into specific parts of the mountains. Now we’re instructed to take seasoning…

May 11, 2009 2:10 am

There was of course also the “Great Polar Bear Deceit” perpetrated by London-based Daily Mail last year together with Rome-based La Repubblica
I have written up the full story in Italian

May 11, 2009 2:55 am

Just The Facts (10:59:41) wrote:
“An interesting look back at when BBC was still capable of reporting facts:
Very good. Here are some more.
Permanent El Nino:
Fiji threatened:
12 years on………

May 11, 2009 7:09 am

E.M.Smith (14:42:35)
My compliments sir, for a good post.
It is widely understood that Joggers are the natural prey of the Mountain Lion. When California voters made the hunting of Mountain Lions a violation of the state constitution, it was actually an effort to reduce the Jogger population.
(It has been reported-and it may be true, that the act of runing triggers the persuit/kill instinct of a Mountain Lion. Hence, if a Jogger were to stand still, the lion wouldn’t know quite how to kill a biped. On the other hand the Jogger is running so the lion goes for the kill anyway. Fortunately the species California Jogger wears only natural free range clothing so that the Mountain Lion won’t ingest harmful chemicals.)
It’s a shame about the pets and the children, though. They never voted for the bill and they carry no responsibility for what their parents did..
Oh well. You can’t make an omlet without breaking eggs.
(sarc off)
Seriously, a good post.
Steamboat Jack

May 11, 2009 7:59 am

NPR this morning advised me that the sea ice was “retreating at an alarming rate” and that polar Bears were in danger.
Odd that they didn’t bother to read this site

May 11, 2009 11:13 am

Also on NPR this morning on their story about polar bears was this quote:
“He was borderline obese,” Regehr says. “He was a very fat bear for this time of the year. If you looked at him in profile, his belly almost scraped the ground, so he was a really fat good-looking bear, and in general most of the bears have appeared quite healthy.”
Hmmm….sounds like life is tough out there on the arctic ice.

May 11, 2009 12:10 pm

I’m really becoming depressed at the state of journalism.

May 11, 2009 12:32 pm

The problem comes from mixing a belief with fact:
A seemingly reasonable response from a polar bear expert (reiterating some of the numbers widely spread around). It seems that when this expert is discussing their field of expertise, they indicate no conclusive evidence of polar bear decline or otherwise. Any declines seem to be from hunting/poaching rather than an environmental effect.
Basically, they don’t have enough information.
Unfortunately, the commentary drops into the obvious ‘all the polar bears are going to die because of global warming’ belief, with no evidence that their habitat is, in fact, declining. In addition, making a key point, no seals, no bears. Seal populations are influenced by many issues, not least of which is hunting. If there isn’t a balance between the human impact (simply by being there and eeking out a living) then something will give. Any changes can be attributed to a multitude of factors even if we had ‘zero climate change’.
We are all for looking after our environment, but there’s a big difference between climate change and the environment.

Bill DeMott
May 12, 2009 2:03 am

If we want to know something about the status and prospects of polar bears it is best to ignore the journalist hype as well as the speculation that appears on blogs such as this one, and to look at the scientific literature. To access the scientific studies about polar bears and sea ice, go to “www.googlescholar” and search under “polar bears and sea ice.” I found about 32,000 hits, but the most relevant articles appear on the first few pages.
Generally you can access all of the abstracts and some of the articles without subscriptions. Reading about polar bears in scientific articles, we learn that their populations were severely depressed by hunting in the 1960s but recovered since most hunting was stopped in 1972. There are now relatively large, healthy populations of polar bears. We can also learn that polar bears are highly dependent on the extent and quality of new sea ice for hunting success and body condition. Like other bears, polar bears are well-adapted to long periods of fasting, but also require periods of high food abundance. Bears (in general) cannot survive on berries and, unlike wolves, they are not well suited for hunting caribou.
The quality of sea ice varies seasonally, between years and between locations. Several studies show that body condition, growth and reproduction in polar bears are sensitive to this variation in sea ice. In the absence of sea ice, they give up on hunting seals and move on land. They have very poor success hunting in open water.
Stable carbon isotopes readily distinguish between land based and sea based food webs. Stable isotope analysis suggests that polar bears are losing weight on land (not including the possibility of feeding at garbage dumps near human settlements) and that growth and reproduction are dependent on a seal diet.
Thus, posts in this blog that suggest that polar bears can capture seals in open water, or that they can satisfy their nutritional needs by hunting on land are contrary to scientific evidence.
The scientific evidence is very clear that the future prospects of polar bears depends on the future quality, extent and seasonality of sea ice. If sea ice is maintained or recovers, polar bears will do well or at least ok. If sea ice resumes a decline, the outlook for polar bears is poor.

May 12, 2009 9:13 am

gacooke (08:26:43) :
I’ve re-read that paper, and I too don’t see where the ‘no jeopardy’ statement applies past the impact of lease sale 193. An extensive study was done, but what comment was made on the status of bears Arctic or Alaska wide?

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