Nunavut Government Study: “the [polar] bear population is not in crisis as people believed,”

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From the Daily Globe and Mail in Canada:

Healthy polar bear count confounds doomsayers

The debate about climate change and its impact on polar bears has intensified with the release of a survey that shows the bear population in a key part of northern Canada is far larger than many scientists thought, and might be growing.

The number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay, believed to be among the most threatened bear subpopulations, stands at 1,013 and could be even higher, according to the results of an aerial survey released Wednesday by the Government of Nunavut. That’s 66 per cent higher than estimates by other researchers who forecasted the numbers would fall to as low as 610 because of warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin bears’ ability to hunt. The Hudson Bay region, which straddles Nunavut and Manitoba, is critical because it’s considered a bellwether for how polar bears are doing elsewhere in the Arctic.

I located the survey done by the Government of Nunavut, here:

http://env.gov.nu.ca/sites/default/files/foxe_basin_polar_bears_2012.pdf

It seems sound in methodology. Some excerpts from it are posted below.

Summary

Polar bear population assessment in North America has historically relied on physical mark-recapture. These studies are logistically and financially intensive, and while widely accepted in the scientific community, local Inuit have voiced opposition to wildlife handling. To better reflect Inuit values and provide a rapid tool for monitoring polar bear population size, we developed and implemented an aerial survey in the Foxe Basin subpopulation (FB) during late summer, 2009 and 2010. FB, a seasonally ice-free subpopulation, spans some 1.1 million km2 in Nunavut. Polar bears concentrate along the coast during late summer, so we delineated survey zones based on proximity to the coastline.

We used coastal contour transects, inland transects oriented perpendicular to the coast, and total counts on a sample of small islands and ice floes. We focused effort in the high-density coastal region and designed protocols to enable simultaneous collection of double-observer and distance sampling data from a helicopter. We flew >300 hours and 40,000 km during each year’s survey and observed 816 and 1,003 individuals in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In both years, we observed high numbers of bears on islands in northern Foxe Basin and on Southampton Island, neighboring islands and near Lyon Inlet.

Encounter rates were highest near the coast, although bears were observed >40 km inland. The shape of the detection function differed substantially between years, likely attributable to observer experience and variable sighting conditions. However, our abundance estimates were highly consistent between years and survey methods, (~2,580 bears (95% CI: about 2,100 – 3,200), and were comparable to an estimate from the early 1990s. Our results suggest that Nunavut’s management regime has enabled polar bear abundance in FB to remain relatively stable.

Whereas mark−recapture data provide direct estimates of population growth, aerial survey data yield information population on trend only via a time series of population estimates; accordingly, reliance on such data may require more conservative harvest management. The FB aerial surveys provide a framework for future studies during the ice-free season. Ongoing analysis will evaluate the distribution of bears in Foxe Basin and assess alternatives for long-term monitoring.

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Figure 2. Transects flown during the Foxe Basin polar bear subpopulation aerial survey, August to October, 2010.

Results

We completed the FB aerial surveys during August – September, 2009 and August – October, 2010. We successfully sampled nearly all planned transects in both years (Figure 2), despite particularly challenging weather conditions in 2010. We observed 816 and 1,003 polar bears, including 616 and 790 independent bears, in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Observed litter sizes were similar between years: in 2009, cub of the year (coy) and yearling / 2-year-old litter sizes averaged 1.57 (SD: 0.55, n = 75) and 1.55 (SD: 0.54, n = 53); mean litter sizes were 1.53 (SD: 0.57, n = 80) and 1.40 (SD: 0.50, n=65) for coy and yearlings / 2-year-olds, respectively, in 2010.

The distribution of polar bears was generally consistent between years (Figure 3). High concentrations of bears were observed in central Foxe Basin near Lyon Inlet and on Southampton Island and neighboring Coats, Vansittart, and White Islands and in northern Foxe Basin on Rowley, Koch, Prince Charles, and the Spicer Islands. Relatively few bears were spotted along Hudson Strait and in the Bowman Bay region of western Baffin Island, and sightings were rare near communities. Bears were most frequently observed along coastal contour transects, in the nearshore inland stratum and on large and small islands, but sightings were documented across all strata (Figure 3).

Total Abundance

Despite different analytical techniques and detection functions, the four preliminary abundance estimates were remarkably consistent (Table 2). Model averaging yielded a preliminary overall abundance estimate of about 2,580 bears in the Foxe Basin subpopulation, with a 95% lognormal confidence interval of 2,093 to 3,180 (CV: 10.7%).

Survey done by the Government of Nunavut, here:

http://env.gov.nu.ca/sites/default/files/foxe_basin_polar_bears_2012.pdf

It seems like a superior methodology to say, seeing three drowned polar bears at sea after a storm and then extrapolating that to the entire population like one now discredited and disgraced researcher did. Of course, honest science like what was done in this survey doesn’t make headlines or wailing and gnashing of teeth by NGO’s and Al Gore, and even Science magazine who much prefer to stick to the view of a declining Ursus Bogus population:

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Back to the Globe and Mail article:

The study shows that “the bear population is not in crisis as people believed,” said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut’s director of wildlife management. “There is no doom and gloom.”

Mr. Gissing added that the government isn’t dismissing concerns about climate change, but he said Nunavut wants to base bear-management practices on current information “and not predictions about what might happen.”

The debate over the polar-bear population has been raging for years, frequently pitting scientists against Inuit. In 2004, Environment Canada researchers concluded that the numbers in the region had dropped by 22 per cent since 1984, to 935. They also estimated that by 2011, the population would decrease to about 610. That sparked worldwide concern about the future of the bears and prompted the Canadian and American governments to introduce legislation to protect them.

But many Inuit communities said the researchers were wrong. They said the bear population was increasing and they cited reports from hunters who kept seeing more bears. Mr. Gissing said that encouraged the government to conduct the recent study, which involved 8,000 kilometres of aerial surveying last August along the coast and offshore islands.

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What I found most interesting is the clear message that polar bears are thriving in an environment where sea ice (NSIDC includes Hudson Bay as sea ice) seasonally disappears entirely.

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Note in the Cryosphere Today comparison image above, Hudson Bay is completely ice free around the time of Arctic maximum melt ~ Sept 30.

It seems the Polar bears can adapt to non-existent sea ice and do just fine.

Of course this isn’t news, as I’ve previously reported: Polar Bears Survived the Ice Free Arctic

So when you see claims like this one from the National Resources Defense Council

Scientists predict that Arctic summers could be ice-free by the middle of this century-without sea ice, polar bears cannot survive.

Or this one from Polar Bears International

Asked by CNSNews.com about the IUCN body’s findings regarding populations remaining stable, Buchanan pointed out the group’s acknowledgment of insufficient data in some of the 19 sub-populations. He concluded that “without ice polar bears can’t survive.”

…we can pull out Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.’s handy button that he provided for the IPCC SREx report and apply it to polar bears and sea ice, citing the survey done by the Government of Nunavut.

 

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In the 20th / 21st Centuries, Polar bear population has generally been a reliable proxy for CAGW, right up to the point where it stopped responding correctly to the dangerous increase in global temperature anomaly.
This is well acknowledged in the literature and, while we await further funds for investigation, we strip the known incorrect values from the proxy data. It’s just a neat trick.

Latitude

too hot…..too cold…..just right
Stupid bears wouldn’t even be here if it didn’t do that………

Bill Thomson

What is most remarkable is that this was published in the Globe and Mail.

Milwaukee Bob

What? The vast majority of the sightings of the bears were on land or on the shoreline?? WUWT?!? I thought they all lived on ice…. /sarc

Ray

No sighting of polar bears on the ice. So we can conclude that there is no ice. They were right.
/sarc

Fred from Canuckistan

The comments section for that article are hilarious.
Must really, really hurt the G&M to have to print that. They have been major AGW Fear Monger spreaders since they figured out it helped sell advertising space & jumped their revenues.
Dr. Suzuki gets a particularly appropriate reaming in the comments.
As someone who lived there for a couple of years I will always take the word of an Inuk hunter over some trumped up PhD “ishiamahongitook” type who thinks he is cool because he drives a Prius.

Dodgy Geezer

How long will it be before you read:
‘Polar Bears saved from extinction by Carbon Trading laws! We must redouble our efforts, says Greenpeace – this shows that funding Greenpeace can really pay off…’…

TomRude

@ Bill Thomson, but Andrew Desrocher is featured prominently too in order to undermine the study…

Michael Palmer

Bill Thomson says:
April 5, 2012 at 9:18 am
What is most remarkable is that this was published in the Globe and Mail.

And with the pithy title to boot.
Maybe global warming doesn’t kill polar bears after all, but just makes them bipolar?

Ockham

Hide the incline !

Milwaukee Bob

“without ice polar bears can’t survive.”
So, do they hibernate in the summer? No Alice. P. bears live on the land (except for the dead of winter) but hunt from the shore, or ice flows, or the edge of the ice as it expands and contracts. Why? Because that is where their food hangs-out. See, with non-humans Alice, you follow the food of our prey, as any good human hunter will tell you. You could say the same of our ancestors, but of course with modern humans you follow-the-money…. especially if they are Climate Scientists.

albertalad

If anyone with half a brain actually understood the high Arctic, and I have lived there, would have known the Polar Bears were in no danger. We’ve even been having stories of polar bears all the way from Newfoundland, all up the Labrador coast, all over the place in Nunavut and other high Arctic areas local have been seeing for 20 years. Only the AGW “professionals” who barely spend a few days in the high Arctic would claim Polar Bears were in trouble. And of course Southerners who know nothing about nothing North of their own house. It was laughable to being with – and outright lies to continue – the usual idiocy Southerners lap up directly because they WANT to believe what newspapers write and what AGW talking hears like Gore and others tell them. Even worst – none of them want to know the truth. I’ve been on this for years knowing full well what the Inuit, Newfoundlanders, and those living on the coast of Labrador have been claiming for decades. Polar bears were in good shape and their population growing. When Sarah Palin tried to correct the record she was called dumb, stupid, and an idiot. And SHE lived in Polar Bear country – while those who called her ever name under the sun never saw a polar bear in their lives. THAT is the state of society today – shameful!

pat

“Prof. Derocher also said some details in the survey pointed to a bear population in trouble. For example, the survey identified 50 cubs, which are usually less than 10 months old, and 22 yearlings, roughly 22 months old. That’s nearly one-third the number required for a healthy population, he said. “This is a clear indication that this population is not sustaining itself in any way, shape, or form.”
This warmist, a backbencher in Alberta, is really pissed the wildlife management group not only accepted the study, but seemed elated.

“Over all, about 450 polar bears are killed annually across Nunavut.”
As Ace would say, hundreds of Polar Bears are killed each year by global warming and bullets, but mostly by bullets.

pat

Best comment in the G&M. It appears drinking Coke is good for them.

David Larsen

I have probably said this before but I used to hunt moose up there for a number of years. We got checked by the province once for license and the man had just come off detail rounding up polar bears in town on the Hudson Bay. They had to routinely haul them via truck and dump them away from town. They would tranquilize them and throw them in back of a pick up. One was so large it filled the bed and legs hanging out touched the ground. They also had a family move into an abandoned house there recently. All the comforts of home.

rgbatduke

I’m perfectly happy to believe that polar bears are at some risk, but not from climate change. Humans hunting them, humans hunting or altering the habitat of their primary prey, that sort of thing has very definitely had a significant impact on many animal populations. Polar bears are relatively dangerous animals, and as people encroach on their habitat, conflicts that the bears are going to lose in the long run are inevitable. Grizzlies suffer from the same problem — big, dangerous, ill-tempered bears that one doesn’t want to disturb in close quarters and that one is inclined to shoot if it happens anyway and you’re armed. The choice being to be torn to bits and eaten…
Otherwise, polar bears are apex predators. They eat almost anything, and nothing eats them (but maybe an Orca in open water). As long as there is food in sufficient abundance, they will be fine, and polar bears can in a pinch survive in the same places and the same ways that a grizzly can. They might overheat in a desert, but even in summertime the ocean waters of Hudson bay are going to be damn cold.
rgb

Jeff Norman

Please note that this survey of the Fox Basin polar bear population probably underestimated the actual population. Since the survey was sponsored by the Nunavut government, it only covered the coastal areas in Nunavut and did not cover the coastal areas in NW Quebec.
There is an interesting jurisdictional conflict at work here. The Nunavut government probably wants to promote tourism including hunting of polar bears. The Quebec government wants to promote the AGW scare to promote their abundance of hydroelectric resources.
I agree that the Globe and Mail probably published this story through clenched teeth.
There was another story in the National Post last week about a man waking up in the middle of the night in his home in Newfoundland (yes the island, not Labrador) to discover a Polar Bear in his kitchen. They shot it, of course.
And then there was the story from two or three years ago about the polar bear and her two cubs wandering into Whitehorse. They shot them of course.

Steve C

Quickly, legislate to permit polar bear hunting again, to “correct” the figures!

crosspatch

Ice is not a polar bear nutrient.

Allen

I want that red button! “That was bull—-!”

Stilgar

Doesn’t matter.
The polar bears are protected now because they might be harmed at some future date by what may happen if the projections of some computer models are correct.

Jeff Norman

BTW, for those who don’t know, Hudson Bay is usually ice free during the summer and has been so since at least the early 17th century when Henry Hudson first started mapping it. Those polar bears clearly need better indoctrination.

Stacey

“Global Warming is causing the Polar Bear population to increase to such an alarming size that the indigineous innuit people and harp seals are threatened with extinction. This is a direct result of the planets pain caused by CO2 emissions. Basking sharks never before seen in the arctic ocean are in abundant supply and are now the staple diet of the polar bear.”
Many a true word spoken in jest 😉

Luther Wu

So who cares how many studies claim to “prove” that mankind isn’t destroying this lovely planet? It’s all big oil propaganda, anyway.
We all know we’re guilty.

Gary

Shelby Steele, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal about the Treyvon Martin tragedy, makes a point about what he calls “poetic truth.”

Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth. … The great trick of poetic truth is to pass itself off as the deep and essential truth so that hard facts that refute it must be dismissed in the name of truth.

This applies to global warming alarmism and polar bear populations as a specific example just as well as. The point is that truth is absolute (despite what people say to justify themselves). A little bending makes it no longer the truth. And if something isn’t true, it’s sure to do you more harm than good.

Nick in vancouver

Polar Bears have been making it onto Newfoundland, with the increase in sea ice, this year. Having a ball eating sheep and chickens. Not great for the 4 or 2 legged locals, one had his house broken into by a nosy bear and another, which was the ultimate insult to a canuk, had his snow mobile trashed.

HaroldW

The Globe and Mail understates the case. They wrote, “The number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay, believed to be among the most threatened bear subpopulations, stands at 1,013 and could be even higher.” However, the study makes it clear that 1013 bears were actually sighted, and the estimated bear population is actual 2000-3000. It would seem that it is this number (2-3K) which should be compared with Environment Canada’s prediction of 610. In other words, EC wasn’t within a country mile.

shrnfr

Big Al Gorge can hardly “bear” to hear the news…

Political Junkie

“Environmentalists” ALWAYS heed and yield to the wisdom of the aboriginal elders (except when the elders report something positive!).

P Walker

I’ve been wondering for years why anyone thought that Polar bears needed ice to survive .

Michael Palmer says:
April 5, 2012 at 9:29 am
Maybe global warming doesn’t kill polar bears after all, but just makes them bipolar?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
THATS CUTE!! Thank you for the link! 🙂

Bob Diaz

// SATIRE //
What’s wrong with there stupid bears? The computer models and environmentalists are saying that their numbers are dropping like crazy. Clearly the bears need to be properly educated. Please send large sums of money to ….

Paul Westhaver

After suffering the effects of a beating stick by we skeptics, some science has now been done. Low and behold the results are the OPPOSITE oo what the EPA based putting the polar bears in the “at risk” category.
Message to you so-called scientists…. if you want to remain credible and not be relegated to the ash-heap of history as priests of a dead green religion… just shut up about things you don’t understand and stay out of politics, particularly when the science affecting the politics has not been done.
This is yet another case in point of Abuse of Science by Greens.
The federal government of Canada ought to investigate the abuse of federal funds in “green” research. They should prosecute researchers who engaged in science fraud.

The North mayby lousy with polar bears tripping over each other and waiting their turn by the dumsters, but one of this matters. Warmies are just doubling-up on the message, holding a steady course until their ship goes down. Then they’ll walk to the shore on the back of crowded polar bears and will jump on the next pork wagon, “sustainablity.”
Btw, Stilgar, as in Stilgar the Naib at Sietch Tabr? Ok, all Dunies here raise a hand; mine’s up.

The doomsayers need to l’arn sompfin from dem b’ars. First of all, Bears and Models are mutually exclusive, unless Daryl Hannah is in the mix. And then, it’s only a one-time affair. Secondly, Ursus Maritimus is adept at adaptation. After all, it BECAME so as a result of climate change. You know, it adapted, see? Like a Ptarmigan or a Snowshoe Hare, only cuter and more dangerous. Thirdly, Doom and Gloom are so last year. Now it’s gloom and disruption. Where’s Kari Norgaard when you need her?

Luther Wu says:
April 5, 2012 at 10:09 am
We all know we’re guilty.

Like I said, where is Kari when we neeeeeeeed her.

Russ R.

It’s worth taking a look at the comments section in the Globe and Mail article.
The commentary from online readers is predominantly skeptical of environmental alarmism.

BREAKING
In October, two IG agents interviewed Jeffrey Gleason, an avian biologist and Interior employee who co-authored that paper. In a tense conversation — revealed in the transcript PEER released today — agents Eric May and John Meskel questioned the validity of the database Gleason and Monnett used to conclude an uptick in polar bear deaths in open water.
Now investigators are turning their sights on the current operator of that database: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In an email sent in January, and provided by PEER, May asks to interview the employee in NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Lab who oversees the surveys recorded in the database…”
http://junkscience.com/2012/04/05/update-polar-bear-gate-investigation-goes-interagency/

crosspatch

That’s 66 per cent higher than estimates by other researchers who forecasted the numbers would fall to as low as 610 because of warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin bears’ ability to hunt.

Wasn’t it those researchers’ forecasts that were the basis for EPA’s regulating CO2? Since that has now been falsified by observational data, wouldn’t that justify the reversal of EPA CO2 regulations?
The coal mining industry might be interested in that study. The United Mine Workers are pretty upset at the EPA right now.

lowercasefred

I’m so surprised. But did they see the manbearpig?
1. Have they told Al?
2. What did he say?

Baa Humbug

I’ll let you all in on a secret but please don’t tell the warmists.
The Tourism Bureau of Nunavut employed out of work oil drillers and uni students to wear polar bear suits during survey flights. There is NO evidence that the sighted bears were bears.

Michael D Smith

Good comment at G&M:
“Polar bear population feared healthy, Big Environment fundraisers find”
or
“In serious climate change, the polar bear will migrate south and the homeless will become part of their natural diet”
(homeless no doubt created by anti-carbon initiatives)

Jenn Oates

Well…I didn’t believe it.
But I don’t live in the echo chamber, and reception is much better out here. Facts have a habit of actually making it through on a regular basis!

Tenuk

Populations not recovering. Just lots of Inuit hunting guides crawling round wearing polar bear skins. They depend on rich hunters from the West for a good part of their income./sarc

RHS

As long as the Polar Bears don’t run out of Coke and Penguins, they’ll be alright.
/Sarc

Latitude

They tried this same ‘trick’ with manatees…..
the green groups were in control of counting manatee populations
Until Fish and Wildlife had to answer to the commercial fishing, diving, and boating industries….
…and the real numbers came out
Manatees were not endangered at all………….

Cam_S

From January 2008…
Local Inuit hunters say there are lots of polar bears.
But Greenpeace says they are in danger from global warming.
Bear litigation a ploy, say Inuit groups
Environmentalists’ lawsuit “is not very constructive, but meant for publicity.”
http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/archives/2008/801/80118/news/nunavut/80118_858.html

KNR

Now normal the AGW fan club are very keen on ‘Native Wisdom’ it suits all that Gaia BS.
But I have a feeling in this case these native’s wisdom will worth nothing compared to the ‘experts’
By the way how is the ‘king of the polar bear scare ‘ doing these days , he was under investgation but that has all gone quite , so anyone know?

Mike Smith

Solar power, polar bears, entire countries submerged by the ocean, hockey sticks, tree rings, hurricane frequency, thermometers adjacent to air conditioners, wind farms… this so called “science” just keeps on comin’.
One starts to wonder if the real agenda is less about global warming, or even the redistribution of wealth. And more about the destruction of science itself.
Science has represented a lethal threat to ideology in many periods throughout history. I’m sure there are some who would like to see that threat neutralized through a comprehensive discrediting of its findings.