Claim: polar bears can't subsist on anything but seals

From the United States Geological Survey and the department of omnivorous dining comes this:

Polar bears feeding on garbage in Novaya Zemlya, Russia. Image from Duke University

Polar bears unlikely to thrive on land-based foods

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey — ice seals.

“Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,” said Dr. Karyn Rode, lead author of the study and scientist with the USGS. “In the regions where terrestrial feeding by polar bears has been documented, polar bear body condition and survival rates have declined.”

The authors detail their findings in a review article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The scientists noted that over much of the polar bear’s range, terrestrial habitats are already occupied by grizzly bears. Those grizzly bears occur at low densities and are some of the smallest of their species due to low food quality and availability. Further, they are a potential competitor as polar bears displaced from their sea ice habitats increasingly use the same land habitats as grizzly bears.

“The smaller size and low population density of grizzly bears in the Arctic provides a clear indication of the nutritional limitations of onshore habitats for supporting large bodied polar bears in meaningful numbers,” said Rode. “Grizzly bears and polar bears are likely to increasingly interact and potentially compete for terrestrial resources.”

The study found that fewer than 30 individual polar bears have been observed consuming bird eggs from any one population, which typically range from 900 to 2000 individuals. “There has been a fair bit of publicity about polar bears consuming bird eggs. However, this behavior is not yet common, and is unlikely to have population-level impacts on trends in body condition and survival,” said Rode.

Few foods are as energetically dense as marine prey. Studies suggest that polar bears consume the highest lipid diet of any species, which provides all essential nutrients and is ideal for maximizing fat deposition and minimizing energetic requirements. Potential foods found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetation. Polar bears are not physiologically suited to digest plants, and it would be difficult for them to ingest the volumes that would be required to support their large body size.

“The reports of terrestrial feeding by polar bears provide important insights into the ecology of bears on land,” said Rode. “In this paper, we tried to put those observations into a broader context. Focused research will help us determine whether terrestrial foods could contribute to polar bear nutrition despite the physiological and nutritional limitations and the low availability of most terrestrial food resources. However, the evidence thus far suggests that increased consumption of terrestrial foods by polar bears is unlikely to offset declines in body condition and survival resulting from sea ice loss.”


The review article was developed by researchers at the USGS, Washington State University, and Polar Bears International.

The USGS is leading studies of polar bear response to sea ice loss through its Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. Current studies include examination of polar bear nutritional and behavioral ecology, linked to population-level consequences.

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April 3, 2015 10:09 pm

Gotta be a corrupt hard drive
/sarc off

Pat Frank
Reply to  William McClenney
April 4, 2015 10:40 am

Susan Crockford at Polar Bear Science has a post on exactly this article.
She points out the serious disconnect, that polar bear critical feeding time is Spring whereas the sea-ice loss is in Summer. So, the entire thesis of Dr. Karyn Rode and the USGS is falsified by facts that any expert of polar bears should know.
As Dr. Crockford says, “Don’t forget that the sea ice models these biologists use do not predict a decline in winter ice (Dec-March) and project only slight declines in spring ice (April-June) by mid-century.
So, the very models relied upon by Dr. Rode and the USGS say that there is no sea-ice threat to polar bears during their critical feeding time. Dr. Rode’s article skews the conclusions to fit the AGW prejudice rather than the facts — exactly what we’ve seen over and over again in climate scare political (not)science.
Dr. Crockford has a follow-up article here, pointing out that polar bear feeding is under no global loss-of-sea-ice threat.
Dr. Rode has some explaining to do.

good ol' Brian
April 3, 2015 10:22 pm

Just ask Binky.
Hope the hyperlink thingy works.

April 3, 2015 10:24 pm

Bird’s eggs? For a carnivore that large?
That’s risible.
If it’s got feet and moves, they can eat it.
If necessary, they even eat each other.
The “vegan diet” sounds like wishful thinking. I remember seeing some of a documentary many years ago of a juvenile bear being killed and eaten by an older and bigger bear in the Hudson Bay area. When they’re hungry, they don’t seem to be fussy eaters.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
Reply to  sophocles
April 4, 2015 2:12 am

That is all true about bears eating bears. One of the major causes of death for young polar bears is older polar bears, especially males. In theory the population could double every year but in practice it is every 20. The main reason it is not faster is adult male polar bears.
The paper attempts to ‘hide the increase’.

Reply to  sophocles
April 4, 2015 4:11 am

Maybe they could simple re-Darwin themselves back to the land bears they evolved from and eat all those other bears. No one’s ever shown Darwin couldn’t work in a circle.

Reply to  sophocles
April 4, 2015 8:21 am

All bear species eat berries. For some species e. g. Brown Bear Ursus arctos it is an important food in autumn. And, yes, polar bears do eat bird’s eggs and young birds. It is a well-known phenomenon in e. g. Svalbard.

Reply to  tty
April 4, 2015 6:23 pm

If Dr Rode observed me for 1 year he would observe that my main protein intake came from meat and eggs and I rarely ate berries. If he started observing after 9:00am he would categorically state that I never ate eggs. If he observed me only in winter he could say I never ate berries. There are 900-2000 bears in one population, did he have an observer for each bear 24 hours every day?

Reply to  sophocles
April 4, 2015 8:44 am

Like humans, all bears are omnivores.
The big Alaskan brown bears ( ) are close to the same size as polar bears.
I’ve been too Lake Clark National Park (on the Alaska coast on the north side of Cook inlet west of Anchorage) to view and photograph the Alaskan browns that exist in relatively large numbers in the tidal grass lands along the shore of the inlet.
Their diet is mostly berries, grasses, sedges, cow parsnip, ground squirrels, and roots, supplemented by large amounts of salmon during the Salmon runs.
Yes, these bears are capable of hunting moose and other large animals, but in those areas where the Alaskan browns exist in significant numbers, all other mega fauna stays away for obvious reasons and opportunities for hunting large prey are exceedingly rare.

Reply to  MattS
April 4, 2015 8:47 am

Yes, the diet of the Alaskan Brown Bears in the tidal grass lands is much lower in energy than the seal heavy diet of the polar bears. However, grazing doesn’t consume a lot of energy.

Reply to  sophocles
April 4, 2015 10:47 am

If you really think polar bears subsist entirely on seals you need to watch the polar bears around Churchill sizing up the humans who pay big bucks to watch them onshore. Those looks say that they are thinking “Spam in a can.”

Reply to  sophocles
April 5, 2015 9:00 am

I am wondering how did polar bears become so loveable and adorable while seals became so hated. It used to be the environmental cause of the day to hate furriers for killing seals, now the big problem is polar bears having enough seals to kill.

April 3, 2015 10:26 pm

I bet polar bears can thrive on funding-fattened Greens 🙂
Question: how did the bears survive for eons without busybodies micro-managing the Entire Universe?
Doesn’t their very existence lay waste to the claim that polar bears can’t subsist on anything but seals? Surely there have been crashes in seal populations in the past, as there are with all living populations over time.

Brandon Gates
Reply to  Max Photon
April 3, 2015 11:13 pm

Max Photon,

I bet polar bears can thrive on funding-fattened Greens 🙂

Doesn’t their very existence lay waste to the claim that polar bears can’t subsist on anything but seals?

Arguably true, but where exactly was that claim made?

johann wundersamer
Reply to  Brandon Gates
April 4, 2015 10:55 pm

brand on gates,
exactly get You’re claims
made true?
‘Arguably true, but where
Astonishing question. Exactly.

Joe Prins
April 3, 2015 10:30 pm

Old news. Read Susan Crockford blog dated 1 April. No joke.

Reply to  sadbutmadlad
April 4, 2015 5:17 am

With all due respect to the author, the paper did not miss the point. Because the actual point of the paper was to miss the real point.

Reply to  Joe Prins
April 4, 2015 7:37 am

Thanks Joe,
Just out of bed here on the Canadian west coast, on an overcast Saturday. Let me see if I can catch up.
Here are some excerpts from my post:
“Whatever food polar bears consume in the summer – whether they are on land or on the ice – doesn’t really matter. What matters is how many fat-rich seals they can consume between March and June each year.
The fat put on in late winter/spring from gorging on baby seals carries polar bears over the summer, no matter where they spend it. [see this post ]
USGS polar bear biologist Karyn Rode and colleagues (press release here) have tried to frame this issue as one about future survival of polar bears in the face of declining sea ice.
However, the fact that polar bears in the Chukchi Sea and Southern Davis Strait are thriving despite dramatic declines in summer sea ice (aka an extended open-water season), proves my point and disproves their premise. Bears in these regions are doing extremely well – contrary to all predictions – because they have had abundant baby seals to eat during the spring (see here and here).
Don’t forget that the sea ice models these biologists use do not predict a decline in winter ice (Dec-March) and project only slight declines in spring ice (April-June) by mid-century (Amstrup et al. 2007; Durner et al. 2009; Oakley et al. 2012; Wang et al. 2012).
Polar bear biologists emphasize the generic phrase “sea ice” whenever possible (as in this paper, “Warming-induced loss of sea ice remains the primary threat faced by polar bears.”) but if you look at the predictive ice modeling papers they use, it is clear they really mean summer sea ice:
“…all GCMs project extensive winter sea ice through the end of the 21st century in most ecoregions (Durner et al. 2009).” (Amstrup et al. 2007:9)
In other words, their models show no reason to worry about the state of the critical spring feeding period between now and the middle of this century.”

Reply to  polarbearscience
April 4, 2015 12:33 pm

thanks Susan!

Reply to  polarbearscience
April 4, 2015 1:50 pm

because they have had abundant baby seals to eat during the spring ….
you know, maybe I’m missing something here…..but I don’t think seals and bears wear wrist watches
They are trying to frame this like it’s a certain time……if there’s less ice in the “spring”…that just means it melted sooner…..which just means it got warmer sooner….which just means bears and seals will do the same thing…sooner on our calendar….they won’t even know the difference

Reply to  polarbearscience
April 4, 2015 1:52 pm

I mean it’s not like the bears and seals will wake up one day and go… God, spring is 3 weeks early this year

Tom Moran
Reply to  polarbearscience
April 5, 2015 7:05 am

Latitude is right. My crocuses don’t have a calendar but they always know just when it’s the right time to show off.

April 3, 2015 10:44 pm
Reply to  garymount
April 4, 2015 2:43 pm

What a co-ink-a-dink.
It invites speculation about bear re-introduction programs.

April 3, 2015 11:11 pm

I laughed when it was mentioned in the article that a different species of bear (the arctic gizzly) was so small in comparison to other grizzly bears. My understanding is they are different species and size isn’t directly related to diet or we would assume all small animals are under fed. :):)

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Cray
April 4, 2015 5:44 am

Grizzlies and Polar bears are only semi- distinct species, with the great whites having diverged only (we think) around 100K yrs ago and do interbreed at times, with hybrids of the two occasionally spotted.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Alan Robertson
April 4, 2015 5:57 am

chris moffatt posted an article further down the page which debunks the 100K year time span.

April 3, 2015 11:23 pm

How can I tap some of this grant money gravy train? Is it like do a study of anything anywhere sound the alarm cash a check?

Reply to  logos_wrench
April 5, 2015 9:03 am

Write a paper abut global warming, say we are doomed and don’t forget to mention that more studies will be needed. The money will flow in.

George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA
April 3, 2015 11:41 pm

got to love the picture while studies are being done in Alaska. Our tax dollar$ at work!

Reply to  George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA
April 3, 2015 11:52 pm

Nahh, There was a seal under all of that garbage trying to change it’s own “nutritional” habits ( and eat berries ).

Dudley Horscroft
April 3, 2015 11:52 pm

If the grizzlies are that small, no doubt the polar bears will eat them.
For info on bear food, see:;wap2
which may be informative!

April 4, 2015 12:00 am

What they seem to forget is that seals and walrus come ashore w/o ice. YouTube is packed with polar bears attacking them where there is no ice. And don’t forget the dead whales that wash ashore.
One more thing – just a rhetorical question – you never hear of environmentalists decrying how many resources the polar bears use, or the possibility of dwindling numbers of seals with increased polar bear numbers – or how many fish all those seals and walrus eat. Or how much blubber is on a whale, seal, walrus, or bear. Why is it they’re consumed with how many resources we use, but never any other creature?

April 4, 2015 12:02 am

From Climate Change Dispatch :

[ … ] according to Susan Crockford, a zoologist and polar bear expert, the media has missed the point entirely of this new study. She writes that “whatever food polar bears consume in the summer – whether they are on land or on the ice – doesn’t really matter.” What actually matters is what polar bears eat and how much during the spring.

April 4, 2015 12:04 am

The USGS has to keep the scam going or be cut back … imagine, no polar bear problems no gravy for USGS … they know that!

April 4, 2015 12:05 am

The image above creates the impression to be photoshopped to me, or?
Lots of sharp edges…

Reply to  petermue
April 4, 2015 2:14 am

Peter, I think you are correct. Check out the base of the right rear leg on the nearest polar bear. Doesn’t look right at all vis-a-vis the rubbish around it. Who’s creating this picture and what’s the purpose of it?

Reply to  Hoplite
April 4, 2015 2:34 am

Jeah, and look at the crates in front of the right bear, and particularly the background scenery compared to the trash dump in the front.
Also note, that no crate is broken, even when those ponderous bears plough through them.

Allan Short
Reply to  petermue
April 4, 2015 8:09 am

I do not know how much you know about photo programs, such as Photoshop, first it was shot at f/4.5 which means that it has a shallow depth of field so only a small area in front of the focus point and a slightly area behind that focus point will be in acceptable sharpness. As the image would have had a original resoluation of 300dpi and has been stripped down to 72ppi on an 11″ x7.6″ image that is a lot. If you have ever tried to do a selection of soft hair or fur you will know how hard it is to do right it so a select and paste is not very likely. As for the sharpness if it has been sharpen at full size than stripped down for web than it often appears very sharp. Now this was taken with a Canon 40D (2007) it was 10MP the image on the was is 207 KB so if viewed enlarged it may appear to those that do not know what to look for as an image that has been composed or put together.

Reply to  petermue
April 4, 2015 10:06 am

Good observation. Appears to be a mound of crates (unbroken) piled high. Did someone climb high upon a heap of trash to dispose of the crates? Not likely. In a region of scarce resources (wood, lumber, etc) would the crates be tossed into the trash heap. Photoshop seems likely.

barn E. Rubble
Reply to  eyesonu
April 5, 2015 6:59 pm

I agree w/Allan S. I don’t think it was ‘shopped’. Apart from his observations, the black line/box on the back right foot could be anything. I’ve been using Photoshop since about v.1 (89/90) but back then we used it primarily to take photos down to 256 colours (or less, depending on how many colours were needed for on screen text). If this was Photoshopped, it was done by a master. Also, almost everything consumed in the north is shipped there. Wooden crates would be useful, at best, for kindling. You would have to be very desperate to scavenge wood (for kindling) where polar bears frequent.
Bears are bears and dumps are dumps. Anywhere both can be found means both will be found in the same place.
However, I stand to be corrected and will be ever so impressed by whoever created that image.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
April 4, 2015 12:26 am

So how does this work?
““Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,” said Dr. Karyn Rode”
What planet does Dr Rode live on?
I take it she is saying that as the Arctic warms up there will be fewer seals and the polar bears will starve, right? So is it the seals or the polar bears that will go extinct first? Does the US Geological Survey know that seals are able to survive in warmer seas filled with thriving fish populations by….let me get this right…eating them?
Seals are a land-based food too. Are they aware of that? When they poke a hole in the ice and jump out for a rest, they are on ‘land’. If they want to cry ‘Alarum!’ they should have said that all the seals will drown because when the ice is gone they will have nothing to ‘land on’.
I wonder if polar bears might be able to eat any other type of land-occurring food?×360/p02bgtjt.jpg
I guess not. It’s seals or nothing and there is simply nothing for a giant, vicious, carnivore to eat on land.
“Although Churchill’s polar bear migration is part of an age-old pattern, climate change has caused Hudson Bay to melt earlier each summer and to freeze later, shortening the hunting season for these bears and straining the limit of their fat reserves. As a result, their numbers have dropped by 22% over the past 30 years.”
That is from
Then why has the polar bear population exploded in my lifetime? Why is it that only in areas where there are a lot of people with guns that the population has declined? Has it really declined? Is there a correlation? What is the correlation coefficient between a polar bear being shot by a high powered rifle and dying?
People are complaining like hell about the increasing number of polar bears:
Here is the opinion of locals: “Noting the large number coming through Arviat each year, Savikataaq wants to see the [kill] quota bumped from 24 polar bears to 45.”
Do people know that the polar bear capital of Canada is not Baffin Island – where it is too frigging cold to thrive – it is Manitoba!
Ron Thiessen also has concerns. The executive director of Manitoba’s Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said…[a]ny increase in the number of [tundra buggy] permits issued must be based on “sound science” and input from local people, he suggested.
Sound science. Sounds good. The locals say there are too frigging many bears killing their dogs and tearing up their meat caches and invading their towns as the population continues to explode and they want permission to shoot more of them so they don’t have to mount, for the first time, a 24-hour guard.
What is the correlation coefficient between the US Geological Survey’s latest brainwave and reality?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
April 4, 2015 7:39 am

Your photo was taken from the BBC clip below. In the course of three minutes the large adult male bear attacked four different walruses, failing in every attempt.
Polar bear walrus hunt
It took two years and three shoots to bag new perspectives on the obviously high-risk hunting strategies of polar bears. The effort paid off when this desperately hungry male polar bear, followed on his epic swim in search of food, was observed trying to predate fully grown adult walruses. Usually they would go after cubs, but increasingly desperate polar conditions are pushing them to ever more ambitious attacks.
Release date: 29 May 2009

Reply to  Magma
April 4, 2015 10:25 am

Hey, looks like I’m not blocked anymore! Off the blacklist!! Welcomed back with joy… or is that going too far?
[Reply: If you don’t use one, and only one screen name, you will not be allowed to post. Last warning. ~mod.]

Reply to  Magma
April 4, 2015 12:06 pm

@mod: as noted, I was surprised to see my original one unblocked.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
Reply to  Magma
April 5, 2015 3:15 am

I read your comment Magma – you are back. Try not to violate policies – they are not hard to comply with.
The emotionally-laden BBC commentary is anthropomorphism ‘personified’. What a crock. Being a Polar Bear is a tough game. Many young polar bears are killed and eat by other polar bears because adults are lean, mean killing machines. What are these ‘increasingly desperate polar conditions’? What a crock, again. The ‘increasingly desperate’ conditions occur each and every year. It is called life in the wild. Come to Africa. You can see mean, lean killing machines take down a buffalo or zebra.
A polar bear can kill a walrus – even ones with 3 foot tusks and a body weight of 2 tons. The claim that polar bears eat only seals is fatuous. Polar bears hunt on land all the time – when there is no ice.
In climate cooling conditions when the ice expands and threatens to turn into year-round ice the polar bear population dies off for lack of food which is why most of them live in sunny, warm Manitoba where the temperature only drops to -55 C.
Here are polar bears eating walruses:

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
Reply to  Magma
April 5, 2015 3:16 am

Apologies – that didn’t work out. Where is the end of a walrus.comment image

Eamon Butler
Reply to  Magma
April 5, 2015 4:37 am

Often the success of the hunt is the resulting injuries caused to a walrus in the panic, as they attempt to escape to sea. This leaves a more vulnerable and easier target for a hungry bear to finish off. Experimenting with ever more ambitious attacks, is how nature learns. It’s why you don’t see Polar bears sitting around waiting for Mc Donalds to open a branch nearby.

Reply to  Magma
April 5, 2015 1:51 pm

@ Crispin in Waterloo:
Helpful advice, no doubt. By the way, Jean-Marc Perreault, who took that photo in northern Hudson Bay in 2007, put this caption on it:
“Polar bear with cub on Walrus Island, eating Walrus killed by hunters for it’s ivory tusks”

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
April 4, 2015 7:41 am

Furthermore, the Hudson Bay is NOT melting earlier and freezing later. It is the exact opposite and it is totally frozen right now in April as were all the lakes in my region of NY until yesterday! This is one of the latest springs I have seen in my entire life.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
April 4, 2015 7:42 am

Your photo was taken from the BBC clip below. In the course of three minutes the large adult male bear attacked four different walruses, failing in every attempt.
Polar bear walrus hunt
It took two years and three shoots to bag new perspectives on the obviously high-risk hunting strategies of polar bears. The effort paid off when this desperately hungry male polar bear, followed on his epic swim in search of food, was observed trying to predate fully grown adult walruses. Usually they would go after cubs, but increasingly desperate polar conditions are pushing them to ever more ambitious attacks.
Release date: 29 May 2009

Reply to  CWG
April 4, 2015 9:26 am

Magma and CWG clearly are on the same page and they both seem to take every word from David Attenborough as the condensate of Truth; I think the splendidly dramatic background music would sway the most hesitant viewer.
Strangely enough, the BBC clip doesn’t seem to be the final word on the predilection of polar bear for walrus blubber and video abounds on youtube. The music might be not as appealing or may be totally absent in some instances.
Indeed, a lioness might lose her teeth to a well-planted zebra hoof, but lions don’t restrict their diet to critters that don’t resist.

Richard G
Reply to  CWG
April 4, 2015 4:04 pm

I would speculate that Magma and CWG are the same poster, as their comments are identical, word for word.

michael hart
April 4, 2015 12:35 am

lol. Good news for seals, then.
But good news for seals, is bad news for fish.
Nice photo.

Jaakko Kateenkorva
April 4, 2015 12:45 am

A picture of Earth’s biggest land carnivores dining in Novaya Zemlya, Russia? In the biggest outdoor nuclear bomb detonation site ever? That’s where they hide thermocalypse?

April 4, 2015 12:47 am

”Claim: polar bears can’t subsist on anything but seals”
Utterly ridiculous. The bears can survive quite well on the succulent corpses of Obamabalese supporters. No seals need be harmed.
Certainly I have no intention of eating any seals out. Hot huskies? Well that is an entirely different question….
Yes, yes, I’m a very bad person. But I have the advanced FEA dead man codes under butterfly wing encryption. 72 hours. I’m still smiling, what’s your issue?
Yes Anthony, I am a foul mouthed and utterly evil bastard. What of it? Black or white, right or wrong? It doesn’t matter who was “nice”, all that matters is who was right..
Was Legion right, or do you want to go with Dr. S, Willis and Dr. Brown? What? You already chose?

You chose Anthony.
You chose.

April 4, 2015 1:49 am

Hmmm…. as the pretty picture above shows, polar bears are white and seals are dark coloured. Might be a racist problem here.

Reply to  Richard111
April 4, 2015 2:38 am

Polar bear skin is black.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
Reply to  Slywolfe
April 5, 2015 3:24 am

Perfect! Yes, and their hair is hollow so they float. The idea that polar bears are struggling to swim is based on the idea that people find it hard to swim. The Latin name for ‘polar bear’ says it all.
Here is another fang through the heart of the idea that polar bears can’t eat walruses:

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Slywolfe
April 5, 2015 1:41 pm

Crispin, people find it hard to swim for a variety of silly reasons I believe. If a human just lays on their back in the water, even fresh water, they float. Just ask a SCUBA diver how difficult it is to descend.

April 4, 2015 1:53 am

Very sad!
USGS, a primarily geology and geographic science oriented agency that used to be known for quality research.
Now it employs armchair scientists that write assumptions to fit assigned titles. So very much like writing torrid romance novels without any real experience or knowledge.
Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,”
said Dr. Karyn Rode, lead author of the study and scientist with the USGS…”
Dr. Karyn Rode displays her lack of observational skills along with her lack of analytical skill.
Polar bear are efficient and very effective omnivores; i.e. they eat what they find where they find it. Dr. Karyn Rode’s inability to understand a polar bear’s effectiveness at predation and consumer in their top of the food chain position. Polar bears may prefer consuming marine animals, but that is a terrible excuse for failing to understand that polar bears are not choosy when they are hungry or even when just partly full.
Polar bears have survived far worse ‘warm Arctic conditions’ and not only survived, but thrived.
“…“In the regions where terrestrial feeding by polar bears has been documented, polar bear body condition and survival rates have declined.”
And this part of the study involved capturing and measuring how many bears? Bears that not only represented land dwelling bears, but also included near ice dwellers and a scientifically valid control groups?
Sadly, no.
Instead, dear Dr. Rode ran her computer ice models and then surmised physical effects on summer polar bears looking for food not very long after the Arctic winter drifted into summer. Bears that were not quick enough to avoid researchers looking to drug and weigh bears.
“…Potential foods found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetation. Polar bears are not physiologically suited to digest plants, …”
Polar bears are not ‘physiologically suited’ to digest plants? Polar bears have not changed much from their grizzly forebears. Polar bears may prefer meat, but their digestive tracts are still fully omnivorous. Again, polar bears have survived past Arctic ice out events.
Dr. Susan Crockford posted her review about USGS’s pitiful idea of polar bear science.
Dr. Crockford also has a post up about the current state of Arctic ice and the excellent conditions for polar bears and other Arctic marine mammals.

chris moffatt
Reply to  ATheoK
April 4, 2015 5:35 am

It seems that polar bears may have been around a lot longer than previously thought:
If true they have survived much warmer, wetter, colder and drier conditions than the goldilocks climate of today.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  chris moffatt
April 5, 2015 11:13 am

Even if they were only 100,000 years old, so missed the hot Eemian interglacial, polar bears had no trouble surviving the long, warm Holocene optimum, with much less sea ice than now.

John Peter
April 4, 2015 1:56 am

” A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs”. Maybe their concerns are a bit premature. A couple of bloggers have been raising awareness of the potential development of a new “pause” in Arctic sea ice. Looking at this graph
it would appear that we now have more or less a ten year “pause” in the decline of Arctic sea ice. So we now have an atmospheric temperature pause approaching 20 years on top of Arctic sea ice. Who knows what will happen next?

April 4, 2015 2:27 am

Since no polar bear has ever in recorded history been observed eating berries on an ice floe, they (the berries that aren’t on the ice floes) must not be able to sustain them. Simple logic – yes? /sarc

Reply to  Steamboat McGoo
April 4, 2015 3:04 am

You forget that modern polar bears normally get their berries shipped to them via (they also eat UPS drivers I hear, but no studies on that yet)

Reply to  markstoval
April 4, 2015 3:29 am

Thank goodness for drones.

April 4, 2015 2:44 am

What a load of claptrap. I suggest (after using my model), that Dr.Rode has never been north of the Can/US border. As pointed out above, she doesn’t even know where the biggest population is. Was she involved in that same survey years ago that said tens of thousands of caribou had died, only to find they just migrated east, like the natives said they did every now and then? And BTW, the polar bear is the largest land carnivore currently alive, and will and does track down anything moving, including man. Did she get the “Dr.” from a Cracker Jacks box?

April 4, 2015 2:45 am

I suspect that seal population always varies, with good years and bad.
I would expect polar bear population to also vary, sometimes in response to seal availability.
I have read nothing indicating that polar bear predation significantly impacts seal populations.

April 4, 2015 3:02 am

It is articles like this one that continues to inform me that most of the academics are total idiots. If all government funding was removed from education (from primary school up) then the average IQ of the nation rise dramatically.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
Mark Twain

April 4, 2015 3:05 am

Why don’t polar bears eat Penguins? Because they can’t get the wrappers off! (Penguins are a popular chocolate covered biscuit here in UK)

April 4, 2015 3:49 am

Why ask the question at all if the seals are not going to go extinct in the Arctic and the Earth’s tilt causing winter is not going to going to change.
The only valid questions are can the bears survive with one month less sea ice near shore in the late summer and will there even be one month less sea ice near shore in the late summer.
I think the answer is climate science has caused too many people to worry about way too many impossible hypothetical musings and to not ask the right questions.

Reply to  Bill Illis
April 4, 2015 9:57 am

There have been periods of time in the earlier part of the current Interglacial period, that had little or NO summer ice at all in the polar region.
That implies not much spring ice then, since little or none of it is more than 2 years old,which would then be THIN ice year round.

April 4, 2015 4:07 am

Polar bear extinction would have no known (or conjectured) ecological impact.
Nature has a way of sorting things out and filling every available niche.

chris moffatt
Reply to  Slywolfe
April 4, 2015 5:17 am

Life would be a lot safer for Inuit people. The real impact would be on the unemployment rate among USGS “scientists” (just why is USGS, a geology outfit, studying polar bears, a biology project?) who would have to find other objects of study and other sources of funding.

Reply to  chris moffatt
April 4, 2015 7:46 am

The USGS along with NASA and NOAA has been steadily destroyed by the ‘global warming’ scam.

Dudley Horscroft
April 4, 2015 4:48 am

I think we should all take the White Queen’s advice:
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
If you draw a long breath, and shut your eyes, you will find that you can believe Dr Karyn Rode.
And if you try much harder, you may even be able to believe Tim Flannery, James Hansen, Michael Mann and all.

Ian L. McQueen
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
April 4, 2015 8:29 am

Our good ol’ CBC radio news accepts Mann’s pronouncements as fact, viz one of their newscasts of April 4. I risk retching every time that the CBC has another of its global warming stories (This one accepted the cessation of the Gulf Stream as fact, quoting Mann as a reference.)
Ian M

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Muizenberg
Reply to  Ian L. McQueen
April 5, 2015 3:26 am
April 4, 2015 4:55 am
“Alan Titchmarsh visits Inchnadamph cave in Scotland. At the end of the 19th Century a Mr Peach and a Mr Horn found polar bear bones deep down in the cave”
Also found this
In both cases the sea being a bit of a journey, I feel that these polar bears were surviving on a seafood diet.

Dudley Horscroft
Reply to  mwhite
April 5, 2015 10:28 pm

I have a strong feeling that in at least one on the ice extensions in the last “Ice Age” the ice could have stretched down to Kentucky. The Polar Bears (now the Kentucky Bears) would have shifted with it, hence the fossil remains of Polar Bears in Kentucky.
With the weight of ice on top of the land, it is plausible that Kentucky was at or below sea level – remember isostasy.
The grizzlies had probably gone to Texas or Mexico to keep warm.

April 4, 2015 5:06 am

I’m curious how much open water existed in the Arctic during the last glacial epoch? Did Canadian polar bears go through a population bottleneck due to limited hunting ranges? Were they forced to migrate south and compete with grizzlies?
Where are the paleo-climate reconstructionists when you need them?

April 4, 2015 5:33 am

Like much of ecological alarmism, this article is based on a fundamental logical flaw: it “normalizes” the recent past.
For instance, whatever polar bears have been doing — the geography and ecology of where they live, their diet, their behavior, their numbers, interactions with other species, etc. — in the past century or so is the norm, they think, and any departure from the norm will necessarily be deleterious. This way of thinking is founded on sheer assumption and extended by mere assertion.
I think the general response should be that the species in question would not have survived this long if it could not adapt to differing conditions. More specifically, we do not know how many polar bears there are now, let alone how many there were 50 or 500 or 5,000 or 50,000 years ago, so we do not know the “normal” population size, if any, and we have little or no actual observation of how polar bears have acclimated to different conditions — which they must have done, or there wouldn’t be any now — and we have no real, actual reasons to think they could not continue to adapt.

Reply to  Lane Core Jr. (@OneLaneHwy)
April 4, 2015 7:49 am

There WAS a steep decline in polar bear populations during the 20th century…due 100% to hunting with modern weapons. My godmother who was over 100 years old back in 1960, had a huge polar bear skin rug in her living room and it was very common for photographers to own a rug of this animal’s skin for photographs of small children.
Today, hunting is very limited and voila! Numbers have shot upwards again.

Richard M
April 4, 2015 6:07 am

This study appears to ignore what else might happen when it warms. Others have mentioned seal moving to land, but it goes beyond that. With a warmer climate we should see the growth of more vegetation which will allow other species to expand into the area. Elk, caribou, deer, and other plant eating animals would expand their ranges and all of a sudden come into contact with the bears.
So many problems with this paper. Junk science at its worst.

Reply to  Richard M
April 6, 2015 4:13 am

You are so right!
This is the essential — and ludicrous — mistake most of the calamity papers by the Global Warming catastrophists are based on: dropping virtually the entire context.
In order to confirm their bias.

April 4, 2015 7:09 am

President Obama just gave Iran nuclear weapons. If he wants to see “global warming” just wait until those lunatics in Tehran start using them.

David in Cal
April 4, 2015 7:26 am

Polar bears may be thriving in reality, but they’re dying out in computer models. For some people, models are more meaningful than reality.

Reply to  David in Cal
April 4, 2015 7:58 am

I too grieve deeply for the computer bears. Oh, but for some more computer ice and computer seals.
(The real bears are mostly doing well though. Dr Susan Crockford told me so.)

Reply to  David in Cal
April 4, 2015 8:12 am

You’ve got it. The inconvenient facts must be wrong. Everyone knows our models and well thought out ideas are where the truth is.

Reply to  David in Cal
April 4, 2015 10:31 am

David in Cal,
Obviously computer models are killing off large numbers of polar bears and should be severely regulated or eliminated to protect the bears. Bears are being pushed to extinction by a push of a button!

Joel O’Bryan
April 4, 2015 8:30 am

More NCC.
The “End”, shutdown any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
The “Means”, anything it takes, including bad science.

Reply to  polarbearscience
April 4, 2015 12:32 pm

thanks again Susan!

Reply to  polarbearscience
April 4, 2015 1:20 pm

Susan – There was one thing that struck me in the article, that I would appreciate your comment on : I was struck by the symmetry re polar and grizzly bears – both were at the fringes of their normal territory, and both were reportedly smaller, presumably because in the fringe area there was less plentiful food. My interpretation is that this is a normal part of the evolutionary process, where animals may continually test their territory boundaries and the thus changing conditions cause changes in the animals , and that in this instance polar bears and grizzly bears are doing exactly the same thing. [A study of cane toads in Northern Australia, where they are continually spreading into new territory, found changes occurring very rapidly, with (from memory) the toads getting larger and longer-legged, and also developing arthritis.]

April 4, 2015 9:48 am

Check this link and look at the graphs of Polar Bear populations in Canada, ( fig 2, page 10 ) and the stable numbers in regions further south. This does not quite agree with this research article does it ?

April 4, 2015 9:53 am

I find the evidence of an open landfill in a remote place distressing. All that wood they could burn in their stoves would have been a good start in reducing the load of trash.

April 4, 2015 9:56 am

So all of the zoo’s that have polar bears only feed them seals. Wow! Oh wait no I think they feed them like they would any other bear on a variety of foods.

Reply to  LamontT
April 4, 2015 11:51 am

I was also wondering how many seals the zoos are feeding the polar bears. Not many.,_health,_and_welfare/husbandry_and_animal_care/polarbearcaremanual.pdf (autoplay ad)
“Nikita eats about 16 pounds of fish (herring, capelin and trout), 5 pounds of dog food and 1 ½ pounds of lard each day. He receives other food like fruits and vegetables as treats and rewards in his training.”
“In the wild, polar bears primarily eat seals but like all bears, they eat everything, and in the zoo the menu also comprises fruits and vegetables, to where seeing a polar bear eating an apple or carrot is not unusual at all! Polar bears are primarily fed, however, horsemeat and lard.”

April 4, 2015 9:59 am

Polar bears and brown bears are genetically related so occupying the same space is nothing new.
Also, IF the world was to get warmer and there was to be consistently less ice in the arctic, then:
a) Polar bears will require less fattening to get them through the winter,
b) Polar bears will be able to eat for a longer season,
c) Seals will be forced to breed on land which means the Polar bears won’t have to travel all the way out to the ice which is where the seals go to try to escape the Polar bears!

Gary Pearse
April 4, 2015 10:22 am

Yeah but Russians and Manitobans DO throw their used seals in the garbage.

April 4, 2015 10:56 am

First it was save the seal, now it’s save the Polar bears so they can kill the seals.
People I guess find all kinds of ways to justify their existence. I may start a save the berries. Polar bears eating the berries is totally disrupting the ecology where the berries exist and it is not fair to insects, smaller mammals and birds. We need ecological justice for the berry!
On a serious note the peer review process of this paper, lacking even a minutiae of critical thinking or adequate subject knowledge was garbage. More broadly it provides another example of the degrading quality and integrity of the peer review process.

April 4, 2015 10:59 am

I suspect this is an old but useful propaganda photo.
From Government of Manitoba on Churchill:
The Polar Bear Alert Program is preventative in nature by minimizing the possibilities of unsafe or unexpected interactions between people and polar bears. To accomplish this, a control zone around the immediate Churchill townsite and former dump was established in which polar bears are not allowed. Conservation staff will also respond to requests made by the public to areas outside of the zone if a polar bear is considered to be a threat. A 24-hour hotline (675-2327 or 675-Bear) i

Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
April 4, 2015 2:24 pm

Oops. Poor reading of caption on iPhone. Sorry.

April 4, 2015 12:32 pm

oh for crying out loud….is this the 18th century or something?
…someone open a Go-Fund-Me page for the poor bears
and by them a ton of this crap

old construction worker
April 4, 2015 1:34 pm

Ok, I give up. Where did the seals go? Are the grizzly bears eating the seals? That would surprise me.

Bunker Hill Jim
April 4, 2015 2:13 pm

I think “people” (humans) are on the menu …. bon Appetite !

April 4, 2015 2:51 pm

Does anyone remember “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”? There was an episode about polar bears raiding garbage dumps,.A program was implemented to tranquilize them and move them out by helicopter. Many would actually cover large distances to get back. I suppose they calculated that the food density was just fine and was worth the expenditure.
As a youngster, I had no idea how expensive that sounds! (:

Pamela Gray
April 4, 2015 6:43 pm

My radar for grey papers is going off. I don’t think this is actual original research. This might be a grey paper that tried to sound like actual original research. My guess is that it is a review of research. If it is, this is the worst kind of offense by climate change scientists. They try to journal-legitimize what is actually their biased opinion.

Reply to  Pamela Gray
April 5, 2015 8:17 am

So you would assert that this an instance of graydar? 😀

Reply to  Pamela Gray
April 6, 2015 7:47 am

Pamela, as far as I’ve seen, this is one of very few instances of “disagreement” within polar bear science. So it figures it would be over a trivial matter.
One group (Rockwell and co.) are trying to argue (at least in part) that when the ice-free “armageddon” arrives, land-based foods will buffer the survival of bears spending more time on land. The other group is arguing (among other things) that only a few bears eat land-based foods now, so it won’t make a difference – polar bears are doomed when the ice-free “armageddon” arrives.
Both perspectives assume that the ice-free “armageddon” is a given.
I say their land-based food fight is a red herring, for the reasons given in my two posts: 1) bears do most of their consumption of seals (baby seals) in the spring and, 2) the biologist’s ice models predict only slight declines of sea ice in spring – when they talk about “sea ice declines” they mean SUMMER ice (September).

Reply to  Pamela Gray
April 6, 2015 9:38 am

A review is “the worst kind of offense”? An interesting view… but one that won’t be widely shared. Considering that the journal ran the article under the header REVIEWS REVIEWS REVIEWS I doubt that anyone was trying to pull a fast one.
From ‘Can polar bears use terrestrial foods to offset lost ice-based hunting opportunities?’:
“Here, we revisit the question of whether, and to what extent, polar bears may benefit from terrestrial foraging. We consider the importance of terrestrial foraging at three scales: (1) across polar bears’ circumpolar range relative to the availability and abundance of terrestrial foods, as well as to the potential limitations of competing with brown bears (Ursus arctos) for these resources; (2) at the population level; and (3) at the individual level relative to meeting energy and nutrient requirements.”

Tsk Tsk
April 4, 2015 9:30 pm

Few foodsfuels are as energetically dense as marine preyhydrocarbons. Studies suggest that polar bearshumans consume the highest lipid dietamount of energy of any species, which provides all essential nutrients and is ideal for maximizing fat deposition/strike>longevity and minimizing energetic requirementsillness and misery. Potential foodsenergy sources found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetationhydrocarbons, nuclear, and diffuse, indirect nuclear, i.e. solar, wind, and hydro. Polar bearsHumans are not physiologically suited to digest plants assemble vast arrays of solar panels, and it would be difficult for them to ingest the volumesfund the amounts that would be required to support their large body size.


Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Tsk Tsk
April 4, 2015 9:32 pm

Well crap. Mods, please add the proper lt sign in front of the longevity strike.

April 4, 2015 11:12 pm

It’s time WWF stepped up and started buying Purina Polar Bear Chow in bulk. Greenpeace can deliver it with their big ship. Maybe the polar bears will get some greens in their diet.

Pat Kelly
April 4, 2015 11:13 pm

Maybe I’m just being Captain Obvious here, but why would seals stop coming out of the water? Seems to me they’ll hang out on turf just as easily as on ice.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Pat Kelly
April 5, 2015 11:31 am

Ringed seals need the ice to breed. They whelp pups in snow dens on landfast ice. If they tried to give birth and suckle on land, probably few pups would survive.
But ringed seals are not endangered and there is little likelihood that the spring ice they need is going to go away in future.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Sturgis Hooper
April 5, 2015 11:33 am

Polar bears’ remarkable sense of smell enables them to find ringed seal lairs from a distance. They crash in the roofs of the snow caves to get at the fat baby seals. The moms can escape through the holes in the ice they maintain.

Reply to  Sturgis Hooper
April 6, 2015 8:01 am

The US has indeed listed ringed seals as ‘threatened’ , even though they have no good estimates and no evidence that they have declined or been impacted by recent sea ice declines: as for the polar bear and walrus, it’s all about the sea ice models that predict a huge decline in summer sea ice by mid-century at least
IUCN and other Arctic nations do not:

jim heath
April 5, 2015 12:27 am

Put them on the menu, they will never die out

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  jim heath
April 5, 2015 1:45 pm

Quite so.

April 5, 2015 8:19 pm

If the Arctic is warming, this should open new habitat farther north for seals, bears, etc., and the whole ecosystem should be shifting north. There’s plenty of coastline on the Canadian Arctic islands. Where are the studies on this?

James at 48
April 6, 2015 12:08 pm

The post’s photo is a sad but highly accurate depiction of one of a couple of factors leading to the ursine population explosion here in North America. All subspecies are exploding. Garbage addiction features strongly, most especially in the case of increasingly urbanized subpopulations, such as the ones starting to become entrenched in LA and NYC. Here in the Bay Area they are knocking on our suburban fringes but its only a matter of time before they expand into core urban areas. Here our issue is California Black Bears. Obviously, Kodiak/Griz and Polar are also expanding. Some areas will eventually have all three!

Larry Butler
April 6, 2015 12:54 pm

I understand they also do quite well on a steady diet of dog food, table scraps and selfie cameras…..
Notice how gaunt he looks, his hair all falling out, lame and tired looking. No, not the bear, silly, his bald headed buddy…..
I’d love to see the look on the little (expletive deleted) face as soon as he breaks into this guy’s garage….(c;]

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