More scientific evidence that polar bears are doing just fine – a 30 42% increase in population with some of them “as fat as pigs.”

Guest essay by Dr. Susan J. Crockford of * see update below on the % number

Survey Results: Svalbard polar bear numbers increased 30 42% over last 11 years

Results of this fall’s Barents Sea population survey have been released by the Norwegian Polar Institute and they are phenomenal: despite several years with poor ice conditions, there are more bears now (~975) than there were in 2004 (~685) around Svalbard (a 30 42% increase) and the bears were in good condition.

A Svalbard polar bear in the fall of 2015

A well fed Svalbard polar bear in the fall of 2015

Oddly, in a September report right after the count, biologist Jon Aars reported them in “excellent” condition, with some of them “as fat as pigs.” I guess “good” is the same as “excellent.”

Bears in the Russian portion of the Barents Sea were not counted this year because the Russians would not allow it; the previous total count, from 2004, was 2,650 (range ~1900-3600) for the entire region.


In the map above (courtesy the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group), the Svalbard archipelago is on the left (Norwegian territory) and the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya on the right (Russian territory).

Oddly, the comments made by lead researcher Jon Aars to a Norwegian newspaper (in English), which picked this up yesterday (“Polar bears make a comeback” ), were far more positive than those in the press release (which is likely all that western media will see).

Here is what Aars stated in the press release (pdf here):

“A rise in the population does not come as a big surprise, as population numbers previously have been low due to the fact that these bears were hunted until 40 years ago, Dr. Aars added.”

[Except that polar bear specialists have been saying the population has almost certainly declined because of sea ice conditions, yet despite the poor conditions in recent years, the bears are doing better than ever]

But here is what local reporters (NTB: News in English from Norway, published 23 December 2015), who were able to contact him for an interview, had to say:

“Researchers from Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø have conducted their first census of sorts since 2004 regarding the polar bear population on Svalbard and in the Norwegian portions of the Barents Sea. “The population has increased,” project leader Jon Aars of the polar institute told NTB. “The Norwegian polar bear population is now calculated to include around 975 bears, compared to 685 11 years ago.”

Aars stressed that there’s a degree of uncertainty in the numbers, but he thinks the researchers have the necessary basis to claim that there’s been an increase in the total.

He also said the polar bears spotted and counted were in “good shape.” He said the ice “came early in the fall of 2014 and lasted a long time.” That means a lot for the bears, he noted.

Ice conditions in the Barents have been poor in most years since 2000, and researchers have been extremely worried about the state of the polar bear population. “It’s positive to see that the polar bears have managed well, under conditions that have been worse for several years,” Aars told NTB.” [my bold]

So again, despite the recent declines in summer sea ice that polar bear specialists, in their expert opinions, insist spell doom for polar bears, the bears are doing just fine. Make up your own mind what that means.

The evidence is now very strong that recent declines in summer/fall sea ice have little to no negative impact on polar bear populations: the real threat to polar bears is thick spring ice (Crockford 2015).


Crockford, S.J. 2015. “The Arctic Fallacy: sea ice stability and the polar bear.” GWPF Briefing 16. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Pdf here.

*UPDATE 24 December 2015: The new population survey number for Svalbard is

actually a 42% increase over the 2004 number. Thanks to Arvid Oen, a WUWT

reader, for alerting Anthony Watts to the error, and to Anthony for passing

it along. Title and text fixed accordingly, apologies to any others who have

picked this up. Cheers and Merry Christmas.

132 thoughts on “More scientific evidence that polar bears are doing just fine – a 30 42% increase in population with some of them “as fat as pigs.”

    • Vuk, Protect the poor seals?
      Northern Fur sea eats 10/30 pounds per day (small fish and invertebrates)
      What about the poor fishyss?

      • DD
        [Apologies, and off thread, but in my youth, DD referred to Double Diamond, a draft beer of about 2.1% ABV, that failed, marginally, to be classified as a soft drink, and which had a head induced [per my dentist] by a washing-up liquid substitute . . . ]
        I feel for the poor fishyss – but what do they eat, the ravenous beasties?
        Auto – emoting all over the compass.

      • In some areas seals eat more than a few “little fish” ( maybe not the Northern Fur seals) but Harbor seals eat a huge amount of salmon trying to get back up river all along the west coast of Northern America (as I am sure on all coastal areas where salmon spawn). But hey, they are so cute when they are little.

    • Polar bears are no more. The past says so.
      • Polar bears survived an ‘ice-free’ Arctic during the Holocene Hypsithermal between 9,000 to 5,000 years ago. Eemian epoch? Jaw jaw, I saw, but no more.
      Polar bears just cannot swim. They will not know what swimming is.
      • In 2008 a radio collard polar bear was clocked making a continuous swim of 687 km over 9 days.
      It was cold up in the Arctic.
      • Polar bears survived the Medieval Warm Period which lasted a couple of hundred years. But the Arctic was bloody freezing!
      I am a denie*r of these basic points. The poly bears will be laughing long after we have gone, goodnight.

      • PS, they may be as fat as pigs because of…………………….. of more food? Surely not!

        The regime shift of the 1920s and 1930s in the North Atlantic
        During the 1920s and 1930s, there was a dramatic warming of the northern North Atlantic Ocean. Warmer-than-normal sea temperatures, reduced sea ice conditions and enhanced Atlantic inflow in northern regions continued through to the 1950s and 1960s, with the timing of the decline to colder temperatures varying with location. Ecosystem changes associated with the warm period included a general northward movement of fish. Boreal species of fish such as cod, haddock and herring expanded farther north while colder-water species such as capelin and polar cod retreated northward. The maximum recorded movement involved cod, which spread approximately 1200 km northward along West Greenland. Migration patterns of “warmer water” species also changed with earlier arrivals and later departures. New spawning sites were observed farther north for several species or stocks while for others the relative contribution from northern spawning sites increased. Some southern species of fish that were unknown in northern areas prior to the warming event became occasional, and in some cases, frequent visitors. Higher recruitment and growth led to increased biomass of important commercial species such as cod and herring in many regions of the northern North Atlantic.

        “…polar bear food chain (arctic cod-ringed seal-polar bear)…”

        Why is it that a warming arctic should lead to the demise of polar bears? Polar bears will not know what food is! They like garbage Churchill food though.

  1. Obviously climate change is devastating the polar bear population as it is leading to over eating, resulting in late-onset diabetes and heart disease. Governments should be encouraged to set up salad bars and treadmills for the bears within their traditional hunting regions.

    • The fact that they are the white supremacists of the Arctic should give us cause for concern too. We should move some Black Bears and Brown Bears to join them to ensure cultural diversity

      • This is my first reply to this forum. I’ve been lurking for a long time, but I feel the need to reply to your post.
        Funny, great! So true.
        Masters in Applied physics; a climate denier.

      • Surely there are Yellow Bears, too . . . .
        Auto [embracing multiculturalism; I live & work and socialise in London; when we sought the Olympics – 2005 – New York, another great candidate city, was happy to indicate that their people spoke ‘200 languages’; someone mentioned that in London, ‘143’ languages were spoken at home by the parents of just one school. I read it in the press – so it must be true. As true as if it was in the Wiki, which even I can edit . . . . ]

      • Let’s not forget the grizzlies; also, the pandas should be there for the bi-color portion of bio-diversity. The fact that bamboo [=panda food] has not proven successful in the high Arctic should not release us from the obligation to see that pandas are proportionally represented among the bear populations. I am not yet suggesting moving a proportional number of polar bears to panda habitats; as far as I know, there isn’t much ice there.

      • Polar bears remind me of Brits in a way, Brits have lousy wet, lack of sun type summers and then they go on a holiday in winter and when asked (when they get back with a nice facial tan), the question
        ” where did you go for a holiday?” ( the answer expected,is of course ” to Spain”)
        Nope they answer I went skiing in the Alps…………???? Talk about punishment!

      • @ Andrew, 12 14 pm, Sorry that could lead to some serious discussion. What about , like Christian bears? What about Black Bears Matter Bears, and low and behold Muslim bears. Gay bears? Sorry, mods you are free to delete this.

  2. IUCN/SSC Polar bear specialist group
    According to IUCN/SSC Polar bear specialist group there are 19 distinct polar bear populations: 3 are in decline due to lousy neighbors, 1 is increasing, 6 are stable, and 9 covering over half the area lack useful data. The 9 unknown populations are mostly in Russia which hasn’t bought into the CAGW/disappearing sea ice clap trap. So the glib observation that when Gore was born there were 7,000 polar bears and only 30,000 are left now might not be exact, but the idea is close enough. I guess “saving” the polar bears beats having real jobs.

  3. Look at these obese bears… how much junk food do they eat?
    Let’s tax fast bear food.
    Will someone of the children … er … baby bears?

  4. Surely there must be shome mishtake. We’ve all seen the pictures of starving polar bears “stranded” on icebergs.

    • Polar bears have been tracked swimming 600 miles. So they can swim from Key West FL to Jacksonville FL. These are not delicate animals that will see a 10 mile lead or polynya opening up as a problem.

      • Key West to Jacksonville is warm water and along a coast.
        These bears swim that for across icewater, over open ocean in storm tossed Arctic conditions.
        A far more impressive feat, IMO.

  5. So “worse” ice conditions are good for polar bears?
    Or maybe they have all been on holiday over the ice and they’ve been eating all the extra walruses.
    Or maybe some “climatologists” don’t have a clue.

    • Sue Gore for all the emotional distress and lost sleep he caused. I will join you and we can make it a class action on behalf of all the sad grandkids we thought would not know what a polar bear was. Many plaintiff lawyers should be eager to take this on a contingent fee basis, as Gore is a big fat target (literally as well as figuratively).

      • ruud
        Please don’t get too personal
        A figuratively convex target . . . .
        Auto, not at all enjoying the idea of the Al Gore with with big concentric targets front and back – and probably on the sides, too . . . [Umm – go on – /Sarc]

      • vukcevic

        millions of citizens spent fortune on tranquilizers, lost employment, suffered marriage breakdowns

        They are all very much and very properly worried about their future, their children’s future, and their parent’s futures .. because of the ever-rising costs of energy and lack of jobs caused BY the very CAGW crisis that the liberals invented.

  6. Great post, and more good news as the bears thrived despite poor Svalbard ice conditions. BTW, Dr. Crawford’s new polar bear novel EATEN is delightful and highly recommended. It is also a lot more sciency than the peer reviewed fictions put out by CAGW polar bear scientists like Stirling and Derocher.

    • Perhaps we should acknowledge that less ice is “good conditions”, rather than “poor conditions”?
      Even for polar bears.

  7. Good work Susan.
    Walruses increasing exponentially around Svalsbard, polar bears fat as pigs, yet NOAA and alarmists keep hyping that less ice is destroying the Barents Sea’s carrying capacity. Can the ugly politicization of climate be any more transparent. Hmmm

  8. All Arctic animals are the result of evolution at work: long Ice Age cycles with short Interglacials, they can exploit both in various ways. And these populations have a boom/bust cycle depending on various ocean animals that do this like clockwork. It is never a ‘stable population’.

  9. Dr. Crockford, I’ve been remarking in past bear threads that if most of the ice disappeared, the polar bears would have a one dimensional hunting ground – along the shores instead of a two dimensional one. Not something too nice for the seals, but polar bears would probably have a feast for quite awhile. Of course this is an engineer’s view of it and I admit it may be flawed! In any case we have had times when ice did not cover the sea. Also, I’ve speculated an ice free Arctic would probably be home to a greatly inflated population of fish (probably including freshwater fish in rivers and lakes) that would keep bears and seals fed.
    A second thought is the last glacial optimum moved all the Arctic animals southward. Is it ecologist’s thinking that California seals and other ex-Arctic seals were originally from the north but found a good living where they were and stayed behind when the glaciers retreated? And the manatees?
    I was visiting family on the south coast of New Zealand (Papatawai, Otago) and went into a shore cave to find a penguin moulting. It looked miserable, like a plucked chicken and it shivered continuously. I thought it was a victim of bilge pumping oil or some such, but my in-laws informed me they had a number of them living in New Zealand, likely rafted by Antarctic ice long ago. These creatures found a way to live on the shore and they also had to contend with seals in the water. The photos show some happy looking creatures in dry dock with no ice to be found (how did they get there?). Penguins are even in the grass. Why do we think such creatures are so fragile.

    • There are many penguins living in South Africa. Seven species. Their daily risk is sharks.

      • Maybe we should introduce penguins the Arctic, although I will stop short of suggesting we send some polar bears to the Antarctic.
        I think they would do fine there, but the Penguins may be wiped out completely by them.

    • We have “little blue” penguins here in Auckland, on both the east and west coasts, considerable north of Otago.

  10. Meanwhile the WWF continue to use the global warming = melting ice = starving polar bears meme to persuade punters to sponsor a polar bear i.e. send money to the WWF.

    • Menicholas
      December 23, 2015 at 10:40 pm
      Maybe we should introduce penguins the Arctic, although I will stop short of suggesting we send some polar bears to the Antarctic.
      I think they would do fine there, but the Penguins may be wiped out completely by them.
      Great idea! the the bear luvvys can get some close n personal experience of having the bases raided and their personal safety at more risk..
      might cut down the numbers of hangers on n idiotic grants to study crap

  11. reminds me of the Florida manatee….there was a manatee crisis for years…endangered, idle speed zones, closed off portions of waterways…….until someone counted them that did not benefit from low manatee numbers
    All of a sudden overnight, there was almost a 400% increase in the number of manatees in Florida

      • completely accidental…..the new numbers do not designate them endangered any more…..they are only considered endangered under the marine mammals act

      • Lat – “designate them endangered any more.”
        But that is just what the EPA had to have.
        The law of unintended consequences is a harsh mistress. The Clean Power Plan (CPP), a policy touted by EPA and others as mitigating climate change impacts on species, imperils the Florida manatee, a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
        House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) spell out the CPP threat to manatees in a letter sent yesterday to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. Because EPA failed to consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service about potential impacts of the CPP on manatees, the lawmakers conclude that the CPP flouts EPA’s obligations under section 7 of the ESA.
        Follow the money and take bets on who funded the count.

      • DD….now that’s irony for you
        The coal plants created an artificial environment that allowed manatee numbers to swell.
        When manatee counts go below that artificial number, they are considered endangered.
        …manatees were put on the endangered list because they went below an artificially high number
        and now the EPA can’t shut down the coal plants because of the endangered manatees that would not have been there in the first place if it wasn’t for the coal plants

    • Do you know how Garth Brooks became so popular?
      Back in they day, sales were counted by having stores phoning in their numbers.
      Needless to say, there was a bit of…well, I guess we could call them “adjustments”, much like “climate science” does now. There was a bit of chicanery in that some product came in the store, were counted as sales, but then went out the back door for a discount to rather unscrupulous sorts. Record companies paid for good numbers. Etc.
      Then, they switched to computerized swiping. Almost literally overnight, “new country” was a thing and Mr. Brooks became a superstar beyond this previous niche.
      Yes, funny how merely changing something as simple as “counting” will mess up a wonderful paradigm.

  12. This strongly implies that the climate concerned community has been deceptively claiming polar bears are in trouble. This also implies strongly that polar bears are much more adaptable, and probably much happier, in low ice conditions.

    • It strongly reveals that liars lie. And one would have to be very silly to think they only lie about polar bears.
      In fact, liars lie about everything, lying liars that they are.

  13. The AGW crowd will now take another tack as they did when snow never dissappeard but actually increased or as in the Anarctic sea ice increasing instead of lessening.
    I can also seee another noble, dangerous-stand Hollywood film starring Dicaprio. Redford and Ford.
    ‘The Diet After Tomorrow’,

    • Maybe Hollywood will make a movie out of Dr. Crawford’s delightful new polar bear novel, EATEN. But probably not, as these stars would likely object on warmunist religious grounds…unless the money was big enough. The novel is just too sciency, makes too much plot sense, and would produce a disturbance in their Force. Besides, no fun filming in Newfoundland in March unless you are from Chicago or Minneapolis or Calgary.

      • The new Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant, (“based on a true story”) shows him being mauled by a grizzly:

        It is among the most talked about cinematic moments of the year, prompting viewers to ponder the possibilities of inter-species sexuality.
        And after months of speculation, Leonardo DiCaprio has finally addressed rumours surrounding a controversial scene in his latest film The Revenant in which his character is seemingly ‘raped’ by a bear.
        Appearing on ABC’s 7.30 show on Monday evening, the star described the scene as ‘groundbreaking’, adding that it made viewers feel they are ‘watching something you shouldn’t be’.
        Speaking via video-link, he told host Leigh Sales: ‘You can feel the intimacy of both man and beast, you feel the sweat and the heat coming off the animal.
        ‘It almost awakens another sense in you as an audience member and you feel like some voyeuristic animal watching something that you shouldn’t be watching.’

        So aside from money, if you jazz up the screenplay with enough totally gratuitous and perverted sex, you can get big-name Hollywood stars to sign on.
        Dr. Crockford: one blockbuster screenplay and you would never again have to grovel for research grants. Think about it: A polar expedition on board a research vessel is stranded in ice. While the team updates facebook pages and makes banana milkshakes a polar bear stalks, assaults, molests, mauls then eats them one at a time. Meanwhile Greenpeace protesters block nuclear-powered icebreakers from putting out to rescue them.

  14. Strangely, very strangely, as we know how totally impartial the BBC is, there is no mention of this on their website. The latest the y have on polar bears is dated 15 December 2015 and is a scare story about how polar bears are having to travel further to find food and how this means they need to eat more food, and so on and so on.
    Polar bears travel further as Arctic sea-ice drifts

    • Well, “good” means different things if you are a Gaia-worshipping Malthusian…more African children starving to death, for instance, would be a tragic thing to anyone with an ounce of compassion….

  15. More scientific evidence that polar bears are doing just fine – a 30% increase in population with some of them “as fat as pigs.”

    It must be due to “the pause” that never happened because particulate matter (Man’s, of course) caused “the pause” that hasn’t happened. Or something like that.
    (Are you sure you’re not double counting the bears? The models say you must be.)

  16. “as population numbers previously have been low due to the fact that these bears were hunted until 40 years ago”.
    Possibly by applying a hunting correction factor to these numbers we could ultimately show the correct reduced numbers.

  17. I’m reading Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez right now. His chapter on the clever, beautiful, multiple survival strategies of the polar bear makes one gasp with wonder at what Darwin has been up to up there. Those silly leftist ‘climate scientists’ should just shut up and leave the polar bear to know best.

  18. Can anyone please tell me what happened to that concerned chap who was going to live for a year on an iceberg?
    He seems to have “disappeared”.

  19. It’s worse than we thought – an outbreak of obesity and surging numbers of due to ursine birth control failure. CO2 is turning polar bears into the white trash of the Arctic.

  20. The number of bears is increasing, which is in itself worst than we believed enough, but the total mass is increasing even faster due to worst than we believed bear obesity, threatening to destabilize the Arctic which could capsize if the bears migrate in the same direction, which is worst than the worst than we believed we believed.
    (Also, most bear don’t even have health insurance.)

  21. Seems populations of all ursine subspecies are exploding, world wide. No doubt some of it is due to a combination of fewer hunters and more habitat protection but I always wonder about the role of garbage eating. Some of the fastest population increases are near areas settled by humans.

  22. Having read and been enjoyably scared by “Eaten” I’m not sure we should really be celebrating a healthy polar bear population!

  23. Maybe a better metric is the estimated tonnage of polar bears. I hear too that the fashion industry council is advising the bears be died black so they won’t look so fat. They must be stressed by their unwanted girth.

  24. Making my new novel, EATEN, a roaring success will be the last laugh on the polar-bears-are-doomed crowd. See purchase options here
    A terrifying read for a cold, dark winter’s night – when polar bears come alive on your page and show their gruesome potential.
    Those who have purchased, don’t forget to go back and write a brief review.
    Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the coming new year.

  25. Though there seems to be allot of todos about bear prosper or not, The facts remain that drowning photographed Bears are not made up and fat one are not either I am shore. But the fact remains that we can allow lazy and profit motivated bad industrial design rule the future. When you see soot in the air or haze on the Horizon above our cities that is real. No argument can be made for not cleaning it up, that is just the way it is in the real world we live in. Joseph Linton

  26. 30% Fatter than Al Gore! That is an Olympic Record!
    Queue the Music of Chariots of Fire!

    Translation: “I Declare The Games … Open!”

    The Opening of the Anthropocene:

    Ha ha

  27. There’s a fellow on Kickstarter named J.D. King with a few great taglines for a film he wants to produce on the deceit promoted by environmentalists on Polar Bears, he calls it “Vicebears”. In the trailer he asks, “If they can’t get Polar Bears right, which is pretty simple, how can we trust them with something complex like climate?”. It’s worth a watch. One thing’s for certain, Ken Burns needs to watch for him in the rear view mirror, the production value of his last film “Blue” was amazing.

  28. I am sure that polar bears enjoy their swims. The water is typically tens of degrees warmer than the air and they have an insulating layer of air under their outer coat which prevents the water getting to their skin. It must be the bear equivalent of a hot bath.

    • Polar foxes apparently don’t, that could be a bit of disadvantage
      polar bear: hi foxy, does poo stick to your fur?
      polar fox: hi poly, no it doesn’t, why?
      In an instant poly grabs foxy and wipes its bum with it.

  29. Further to my post above on Barry Lopez’ book- sceptic/deniers will photograph polar bears in October/November when they are fat for the winter, particularly denning females, while warmist/alarmists will do so in early spring when some may have lost half their weight. I don’t suppose the bears care a toss.

  30. Further to my post above on Barry Lopez’ Arctic book, sceptics/ deniers will photo their bears in Oct Nov when they are fed up for the winter, especially denning females. Warmist/alarmists will take their pictures in early spring when some may have lost half their weight. Leave it to the bears to manage.

  31. What is noticeable these days is the complete absence of any warmists on this and other popular skeptic sites. I believe that has been disappeared as well

  32. I find it ironic that the greens have fetishized a wasteland of ice as being somehow preciousssss. As if we would miss it if it all melted and became somehow useful.

  33. Correction, 24 December 2015: The new population survey number for Svalbard is
    actually a 42% increase over the 2004 number. My error.
    Thanks to Arvid Oen, a WUWT reader, for alerting Anthony Watts to the error, and to Anthony for passing
    it along. Title and text fixed accordingly in the original here,
    Apologies to any others who have picked this up.
    A 42% increase is even better news.
    Cheers and Merry Christmas.

  34. no surprises some regions polar bears will do well, in others not so much…it is the total population that is of more significance, and this study is from one area only…cherry picking as per usual.

    • Nope, the article is very specific in that it is talking about only one area.
      Also, you probably didn’t read this part:
      “The evidence is now very strong that recent declines in summer/fall sea ice have little to no negative impact on polar bear populations: the real threat to polar bears is thick spring ice (Crockford 2015).”
      The overall Polar Bear population has increased since the 1950s. Do you dispute that?

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