Ten dire polar bear predictions that have failed as global population hits 20-31k

Guest essay by Dr. Susan Crockford

Grim predictions of the imminent demise of polar bears – their “harsh prophetic reality” as it’s been called – have been touted since at least 2001. But such depressing prophesies have so widely missed the mark they can now be said to have failed.

Rode and Regehr 2010_Chukchi_report2010_triplets redone PNG


While polar bears may be negatively affected by declines in sea ice sometime in the future, so far there is no convincing evidence that any unnatural harm has come to them. Indeed, global population size (described by officials as a “tentative guess“) appears to have grown slightly over this time, as the maximum estimated number was 28,370 in 1993 (Wiig and colleagues 1995; range 21,470-28,370) but rose to 31,000 in 2015 (Wiig and colleagues 2015, [pdf here] aka 2015 IUCN Red List assessment; range 20,000-31,000).

These ominous prophesies have been promoted primarily by Ian Stirling, Steven Amstrup, Andrew Derocher and a few other IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) members but ironically, it’s data collected by their colleagues that’s refuted their message of doom.

Here are the predictions (in no particular order, references at the end):

Prediction 1. Western Hudson Bay (WHB) polar bear numbers will continue to decline beyond 2004 due to ever-earlier breakup and ever-later freeze-up of sea ice.

FAIL – An aerial survey conducted by Seth Stapleton and colleagues (2014) in 2011 produced an estimate of about 1030 bears and their report stated:

This figure is similar to a 2004 mark–recapture estimate but higher than projections indicating declining abundance since then.”

This 1030 figure is the one being used by the IUCN PBSG and Environment Canada for WHB, as a limited mark-recapture studyconducted the same year (Lunn and colleagues 2014) did not survey the entire WHB region and therefore not comparable to the 2004 count.

Prediction 2. Breakup of sea ice in Western Hudson Bay (WHB) will come progressively earlier and freeze-up dates progressively later (after 1999), as CO2 levels from burning fossil fuel increase global temperatures.

FAIL – Researchers Nick Lunn and colleagues (2014) determined thatthere has been no trend in breakup or freeze-up dates between 2001 and 2010. While no analyses of breakup or freeze-up dates for WHB since 2010 have been published, this pattern seems to havecontinued to at least 2015.

Prediction 3. Chukchi Sea polar bears will be the most harmed by summer sea ice declines because they experience some of the largest sea ice losses of any subpopulation (and thus, the longest open-water season each year).

FAILA recent study of Chukchi bears (2008-2011) found them in better condition than they were in the 1980s when summer open-water seasons were short – indeed, only Foxe Basin bears were fatter than Chukchi bears. They were also reproducing well (Rode et al. 2010, 2013, 2014), with some females raising litters of triplets (see lead photo), a rare sight outside Western Hudson Bay.

Prediction 4. Cannibalism will increase as summer sea ice extent declines worsen.

FAIL – Cannibalism is a natural phenomenon in polar bears and none of the few incidents reported recently have involved obviously thin or starving polar bears (even the most recent example, filmed in mid-August 2015 in Baffin Bay when sea ice levels in the region were high),despite the fact that 2012 recorded the lowest summer ice extent since 1979. Incidents of cannibalism cannot be said to be increasingbecause there is no scientific baseline to which recent occurrences can be compared.

Prediction 5. Drowning deaths of polar bears will increase as summer sea ice continues to decline (driven home by a high-profile incident in 2004).

FAIL – There have been no further confirmed reports of polar bear drowning deaths associated with extensive open water swimming since that contentious 2004 event, even though the two lowest extents of summer sea ice have occurred since then (2007 and 2012). A more rigorous study of swimming prowess found polar bears, including cubs, are capable of successfully making long-distance swims.  Indeed, challenging open-water swims don’t happen only in summer: in late March 2015, a polar bear swam through open water from the pack ice off Newfoundland to the Hibernia oil platform well offshore.

Prediction 6. There will be more and more problems onshore in summer with starving polar bears because of reduced sea ice.

FAIL – There have been more problem bears in summer over the last few years in Western Hudson Bay as well as other regions but few of those bears were shown to be thin or starving.  A well-publicized attack occurred in Churchill in the fall of 2013 but was not associated with an especially early break-up of sea ice nor a late freeze-up. Incidents last summer in the Kara Sea (Russia) involved bears in good condition. Polar bears are potentially dangerous no matter what their condition but death by starvation of young or old bears (or injured ones) are natural events that occur often, not evidence of declining sea ice.

Prediction 7. Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears can be used to predict how bears living in the Chukchi Sea and the Barents Sea are doing because they are similar ‘sea ice ecoregions’, says the Circumpolar Action Plan for future research proposed by Dag Vongraven and colleagues in 2012.

FAIL – Recent research has shown that Chukchi Sea bears actually fared better with the long open-water seasons of the late 2000s than in the short seasons of the 1980s. In contrast, Southern Beaufort Sea bears have suffered profoundly from periodic episodes of thick spring ice (every 10 years or so since the 1960s), a phenomenon that is unique to that region. In fact, sea ice conditions for Chukchi Sea and Southern Beaufort bears could hardly be more different. With Southern Beaufort bears the more vulnerable to decline from natural variations in sea ice, the plan to treat these two regions as equivalent is a farce and totally undermines the Circumpolar Action Plan proposed by the IUCN PBSG.

Prediction 8. Western Hudson Bay (WHB) polar bears can be used to predict how bears living in Foxe Basin, and Davis Strait are doing because these are all similar ‘sea ice ecoregions’, says the Circumpolar Action Plan for future research proposed by Dag Vongraven and colleagues in 2012.

FAIL – WHB bears not only have variable breakup and freeze-up dates to contend with but also face occasional years with thick spring ice and springs with either very thick or very thin snow cover that strongly affects the availability of their ringed seal prey. Davis Strait bears, on the other hand, face some variability in sea ice conditions but have access to a super-abundant supply of harp seal prey in spring. With WHB polar bears by far the more vulnerable to decline from natural variations in sea ice and prey availability than Davis Strait bears, the plan to treat these two regions as equivalent is a farce and totally undermines the proposed Circumpolar Action Plan.

Prediction 9. Continued late formation of fall sea ice off Svalbard in the Barents Sea will devastate polar bears that traditionally den in this region.

FAILPreliminary results from the latest population count of Svalbard area polar bears showed a 42% increase over the estimate for 2004,  despite very late ice formation in the fall of 2013 around maternity denning areas. Other research has shown that bears move back and forth readily between Svalbard, Norway and Franz Josef Land, Russia (which so far has always had sea ice by late fall). This means that Svalbard bears have been able to adapt easily to recent low ice conditions.

Prediction 10. Summer sea ice will decline as CO2 rises; 2007 marked the beginning of a sea ice ‘death spiral’ that is expected to continue as CO2 levels rise.

FAIL – Sea ice at September has been variable since 2007 but there has been no declining trend, a pattern sea ice experts admit may continue for 10 years or more beyond 2014 even if declining sea ice predictions are true (Swart and colleagues, 2015). In other words, CO2 levels have not been the control knob for polar bear health.


Polar bears are not fragile canaries in an Arctic climate-change coal mine but resilient and adaptable predators remarkably suited to their highly variable habitat.

Here’s a summary of what the 2015 Red List assessment (Wiig et al. 2015) said:

The previous status of ‘Vulnerable’ was upheld but no projections were made beyond 2050. They said there is only a 70% chancethat numbers will decline by 30% over the next 35 years, which is only slightly higher than a 50:50. It also means there is a 30% chance that the numbers WILL NOT decline by 30% over the next 35 years.It stated explicitly that the risk of a population decline of 80% or greater by 2050 is virtually zero (pg. 16).

In other words, the status of ‘Vulnerable’ is based only on apossible decline in population numbers, despite their current high numbers, and there is no imminent risk of extinction. The current population trend is stated as UNKNOWN.


Read her entire essay here


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Does not matter, except to taxpayers, our kleptocrats will continue to push the narrative even when we know they lie.
The “massive decline” of the caribou is a similar story.
The 250 000 “vanished in 2009, were found by the same “expert” in 2011 but the Government of the Northwest Territories Canada is still charging ahead with their panicked responses of 2010.
Almost no canadian media ever ran the story,22 Nov 20111 of the oops, we found them.
Nor of the utter failure of both Territorial Governments(NWT & Nunavut) to complete a count of the herds since 2009.
The lie continues, just as the same activists continue to hold their jobs as GNWT experts on polar bears.


Repost came to mind:
Hurrreeeyy. . . hurrreeeyy. . . hurrreeeyy! Step right up to the climate midway folks! See millions, billions, trillions traded for pigs, pokes, and lies . . . starving polar bears straight from the sands of a sinking arctic . . . snarling snow leopards in search of water . . . gasping Gurkhas swept away by melting glaciers . . . coastal residents on stilts . . . climate grifters juggling semi-intelligent humans . . . grim reapers galloping the streets . . . massive throngs wandering aimlessly . . . You there in the back! Why are you wearing that parka?! Hurrreeeeyy . . . hurrreeeyy folks! . . . see the Guinness record for limos and Lear jets parked in one spot . . . hear tragic tales of total destruction from Nobel laureates . . . You there on the right! Can you spare us a billion? That’s it! Step right up and empty your pockets on stage . . . brothers Barack and David will assist you . . . hurrrreeeyy. . . hurrrreeeeyy. . . hurrrreeeyy . . .

Jeff Stanley

Yes indeed, good farmers, Christians and friends … watch succubus politicos and scientífico prestidigitators slither, slobber, spit and scream while juggling hockey sticks with no hands right before your very eyes … hurrrreeeyy … hurrrreeey … they walk, they talk, they crawl on their bellies like reptiles … hurrrreeeyy … hurrrreeeyy …


As TV writers have said for generations: “Where’s the Jep?” (If the Planet is in no jeopardy, there’s no urgency to keeping those ol’ checks coming, now, is there?) So if there IS no “jep,” we have to create some. Yawn . . .

Good reply John. In response to the statement about taxpayers, those of us in the Province of Ontario just got hit AGAIN. This time it was by Kathleen Wynne, Liberal (that means left wing) premier of the province and her minions. We’ll pay more at the pump, as do Quebecers already, based on an UNPROVEN declaration. I have asked several AGW believers to provide 1 piece of evidence, just 1, that shows that humans are unquestionably responsible for the alleged warming of the planet. So far the scorecard is marked with a big ZERO!


Once again, WUWT bares all the facts of the situation.

Leo Smith

Once again, WUWT bears all the facts of the situation. Shirley. Hic!



george e. smith

No chance of the PBs suffering the same dire future as the dire wolves.
That one in the picture needs some pept abysmal !


I can bearly contain myself.


Don’t call me shirley


Let’s not get polarized over spelling, eh?


Bear Bryant….Oh wait…wrong thread…


There is also a 90 percent chance that WWF will make millions off the dire predictions or chance predictions thereof.

I never watch that stuff.


Susan, thank you for the nice update on the reality of the polar bears status.
I especially like the pic on Anthony’s tweet !!!

Pop Piasa

That pic is a hoot!


Love the 1st picture! I always assumed the answer was “Yes!” when asked, “Does a bear take a dump in the woods?”
The true answer is,”Not necessarily.”
Now I’ll have to ponder the ol’ rhetorical question, “Is the Pope Catholic?”
P.S. To Dr. Crockford: I really appreciate you taking the time to enlighten this corner of the internet with your guest posts on Polar Bears. I’ve learned much. Thank you.

george e. smith

No actually out on the ice.


The Pope?

One of my favorite Gary Larsen cartoons is one polar bear that has wrapped himself around an igloo saying to his partner “I just love these things; crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle”

Thank you Susan, nice work.

Thanks Holly and others.
If you’d like to support my efforts on the science (and have an enjoyable read besides), do us both a favour and buy a copy of my new polar bear attack thriller, EATEN. If you’re not a thriller reader, give it to a friend or relative.
It’s getting rave reviews on Amazon (paperback and Kindle) PLUS I have a special deal on for the rest of the month on most of the ebook formats (pdf and ePub).

I can vouch for the novel. It was a fun read, and offers a more scientifically plausible scenario than PBSG.


I just sent Amazon a message to send me what the doctor ordered.
Looking forward to the read 🙂

Mr Green Genes

I’ve always admired your work and the steadfast way you present facts rather than histrionics so I was happy to buy the book. Keep up the good work!

Bob MacLean

+1,000 on the “Eaten” book. Great read. I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished it. It was made all the better because of Susan’s scientific expertise and the knowledge that it could, possibly, happen as described.

EATEN is a good read.
The first few pages are a terrifying eye-opener.


Think of the baby seals!

Pat Paulsen

Wow! Your teaser photo really answered that age old question.

FYI – the teaser photo was Anthony’s contribution…if it got your attention, it worked.

Jeff (FL)

Ferociously efficient digestive system. It’s amazing how those seals compact down. 🙂
Oh and a great article. Always a pleasure to read someone who knows what they’re talking about.

george e. smith

And the answer is no; they ice it.

Poems of Our Climate

If you collected some of thes “save the polar bear” items, like Coke cans, I suggest that, because of the irony, they may be worth a lot some day.

george e. smith

Polar bears do not eat coke cans, and besides coke cans, are made of aluminium, not iron, so there is nothing irony about them.

No, the potential extinction of polar bears is caused by harrassment by camera crews doing the next fund-raising video for WWF.:-)

Berényi Péter

There are still 235 thousand times more people on the planet, than polar bears. However, as the right to arm bears shall not be infringed, these proportions are to be swiftly reversed.


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Bruce Cobb

Climate caterwaulers only used polar bears as an Appeal to Emotion, to help sell their product; fear-laced guilt. The facts never mattered one iota to them.

David Larsen

I remember hunting moose in northern Manitoba and polar bears were invading towns up there. Natural Resources would tranquilize them and haul them back into the bush.

Ryan S.

I expect this will result in some decision based evidence making in the near future.


If bear numbers increase then seal numbers will decrease. This shows that global warming kills seals!
A bit like ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ so- bears don’t kill seals, global warming kills seals!
We’ll have to start using the guns on the bears to save the seals. Cute polar bear cubs or cute seal pups, which to kill? A hard choice..Although at least bears make nice rugs.

stan stendera

Seals make nice coats.

Steve Fraser

It’s a non-static symbiosis.

Frederik Michiels

next study proposal: does all that polar bear poo change the ice albedo in that way that it will melt faster? oh and for the grands their CO2 exhalating breath is heating up the arctic


“Ten dire polar bear predictions that have failed …”
I wonder, are there any dire polar predictions that have not failed?


The people who are losing livestock to polar bears probably had a dire prediction those attacks were going to happen because of the increased bear population.

Good work Susan. In 2007 the Center for Biological Diversity who petitioned for Endangered status and polar bear “expert” Amstrup were part of a National Geographic interview predicting that “Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by 2050”
Now that there is “only a 70% chancethat numbers will decline by 30% over the next 35 years,” reveals how the evidence slowly chips away at their fear mongering!


Where does one find the current sat snow cover images? I don’t see any on the “National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC)” image.

There IS snow cover data collected but only over land, not over ice.
Go figure.


Meanwhile at the South Pole, a blizzard at the height of summer reaffirms the warmest year evah…

Jet another “Ship of Fools” (tm: GreenPeeace)


Who should try playing cards with the Dire Wolf to pass the time. 😉

A bit worrisome. Broke her mooring lines, and ruptured her hull on the rocks. Fortunately, so,far only in a water tight compartment that could be water ballast flooded, so not (yet) threatening. Unless they don’t get her off the rocks soon.


May get a mite drafty when the generator quits. Oh, wait, they could always deploy a windmill. . . /sarc

Alan Robertson

Dire Antarctic circumstance… the situation could quickly get out of hand and put many lives at risk, even beyond those souls on board. Rescues in and around Antarctica are never assured, even with modern gadgetry.


Was thinking a few solar panels might tide them over. . . hold on . . . got to rephrase that . . .

Lynn Ensley

What is the carrying capacity of polar bears in the arctic and are we approaching that number? Or does anyone really know.

James at 48

The carrying capacity is vastly multiplied by the presence of human produced rubbish.

Thanks Susan!
After 2 decades of remarkable tech advances, their range of uncertainty doubled? It is clear they have no earthly clue regarding 2050 polar bear populations, vulnerability or anything else. Had to make sure the low stayed under 21…
The PBSG seems to be simply another CAGW sledgehammer to keep the message emotionally fresh and the troughs full… Love to see how much food, health and education resources these bums have stolen from hard-working families.

Reg Nelson

Are Dire Polar Bears like Dire Wolfs? : )

The dire polar bears ate the dire wolves, silly – that’s why there are no more.
Polar bears are king.


Aarrrgh! Is that all there is?comment image


Poley bear, “Oh God that co2 hurts when I pass!’
See, too much CO2 causes constipation……


This Polar Bear Says: “This is what I think of Global Warming / Climate Change…Ahhh, I feel better already!


Caption: Polar bear swears off eating more hot CO2 peppers!


Queue Jonny Cash and the Ring of fire

” Come on ice cream!”

John Harmsworth

When I caught this guy he said he was a polar bear researcher and there are no polar bears here anymore.


All the researcher needed was a ‘bear bell’ like Alaska park rangers pass out to visitors when there’s a grizzly nearby. (Enables them to sift bear poo to determine where he/she went missing.)


That bear seriously needs to EAT MORE GREENS

Hot. Hot hot hot….


Polar bear laughing hysterically as it tells eco journalist to “Write about this shit”.

Steve from Rockwood

It would appear the polar bear has just given birth to a climate scientist.

Steve Fraser

Kid bear: hey dad,… Say ‘cheese’…..


Polar bear alarmism is a microcosm of global warming alarmism.
Debunking it should be followed up by text (in our side’s educational efforts) pointing this out. The same psychological types are involved in the alarmism, and the same sort of scientific and governmental organizations.

Don Rippe

Best picture yet!!!

The amount of audacious lies getting told when it comes to this is insane. Polar bears are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended). My personal favourite was the one where they said global warming will mean that we’re all going to have less sex (yes, really):


Polar bears are potentially dangerous no matter what their condition …

We were told the ones to really avoid were yellow. They had just been denning and were really hungry and grouchy to boot.

The Inuit of Canada do not support the proposal to transfer Polar Bear from Appendix II to Appendix I on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species because the species does not meet the criteria for an Appendix I listing. link (Inuit == Eskimo)

There are way more Eskimos than there are government scientists and, therefore, they spend a lot more man-hours on the land. The other thing is that the average Eskimo is a far better observer than the average southern scientist. Scientists who disagree with Eskimos should engage in some sober second thought.
Eskimo joke:

What is the size of the average Eskimo family?
1 Mother, 1 Father, 2.37 Children, 1 Anthropologist

I had a working relationship with Ian Stirling and had great respect for him and his technicians. It’s saddening that he seems to have drunk the kool-aid.

Two Labs

Don’t worry – professors who need to fund their own positions with grant money will find some weakly-justified and “proprietary” statistical method to raise past estimates of polar bear populations so that current estimates represent a “decrease.” You can mark my words right here. This WILL happen!

James at 48

All Ursine subspecies appear to be having a population explosion. As I’ve written a number of times previously not only might this be influenced by declining hunting pressure, but also, Homo Sapiens have inadvertently given them a whole new previously non existent niche – namely, consumption of human rubbish. Rubbish addicted Ursines are a dire issue. It’s not going to end well for either the Humans or the Ursines on that score. Much blood will be shed by both.

Polar bears can interbreed with grizzly=brown bears. Pretty much like us and Neanderthals back when. Species are more mutable than we think. The genome abides. Likely Polar Bears have adapted to the Pleistocene as we have. They would not be here, as we would not, were they unable to take a glacial/interglacial transition.

Frank Orlamine

Next there will be talk of white bear priviledge

Steve C

Meanwhile, out in the unreal workd, and as “reported” in the Daily Mail, “Shocking video shows male polar bear chasing and EATING a cub – and scientists say climate change may be to blame”. Dr. Crockford should perhaps change her name to Dr. Sisyphus Crockford …


I’m old enough to remember when environmentalists actually cared about the environment, e.g. clean air and water, the land and wildlife. Long live polar bears!

My memory is that environmentalists actually caring about the environment pretty much stopped in the 1960s and then politics took over.

Mr Green Genes

But, but …
It’s in the Daily Mail – it MUST be true.
/sarc (added for those fortunate enough not to know about the Daily Mail)

Jeff (FL)

What does a cub scientist look like?

Mr Green Genes

Hey ho, beaten to the punch by Steve C.

Steve C

Think positive. There’s not many can say that!

richard verney

But now, Polar bears are eating their cubs, and this of course, is said to due to Climate Change. Is there nothing that the demon of CO2 is not responsible for?
See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3464689/Shocking-video-shows-male-polar-bear-chasing-EATING-cub-scientists-say-climate-change-blame.html
The comments do the article do not appear to be buying the political mantra.

Patrick MJD

Soon, they will blame lions killing/eating cubs on climate change. CO2 the miracle gas!

“Is there nothing that the demon of CO2 is not responsible for?”
True that. Little known fact: it was CO2 that made Eve eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.

Patrick MJD

Where are the rabbits when a polar bear needs one?

Smokey (can't do much about wildfires)

Clearly, they got lost when they missed the left turn in Albuquerque. Which is okay: we’ve plety of PBJ to tide us over. (Polar Bear Jokes, aha!)

A good article, thank you Dr. Crockford.
As a general observation:
A few more questions:
11. The global warming alarmists, including the IPCC, have a negative predictive track record, since every one of their scary predictions has failed to materialize.
– So why does anyone listen to these misguided fanatics?


But in the meantime a generation of schoolkids has been taught to believe that a few remaining cuddly polar bear cubs and their mothers are desperately clinging to the last few chunks of ice in the Arctic.


Dr. Crockford is always a pure scientific voice of clarity and sanity in this devious world we live in.

Thanks for that. It’s a lot of work that consumes most of my spare time but it’s worth it.
And thanks also to all of you who have purchased my novel, EATEN. The book is on it’s way to being hugely successful – can’t wait for the film deal!
Lastly, here’s my response to the cannibalism nonsense several of you linked to above:
Have a great weekend, all.

Dr. Crockford, I just wanted to let you know that I read your book about thyroid hormone, and I consider it an excellent book.

Thanks Chad!
“Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species is the non-scientist version of my Ph.D. dissertation and I’m very proud of it.
It’s an approach that makes evolution personal and discusses the domestication of dogs and livestock species as well as the transformation of polar bears from brown bears.
UK http://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/author/susan-j-crockford/kw/susan-j-crockford/

Doug Bunge

The thing that surprises me the most is that they are making claims when they really have no idea of how many polar bears there are. Somewhere between 20K & 31K? Wow!


hi Sue, bought your book and had a good time………eating Newfies……….who could complain.

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

Gloateus Maximus

Dr. C,
Are polar bears good to eat? I mean besides the Vitamin A in their livers thing. I have never shot and eaten one, but would like to. Do they taste like seal? I prefer dog meat to grizzly and brown bear, but they’re not bad, as omnivorous members of the Carnivora go.


Just one comment,why was that guy doing yard work in March, when everything else was snow and ice. I think you need a better editor………but really, enjoyed it……. fun

Brent – there’s yard work to do in March just perhaps not essential work! I’ll agree it wasn’t phrased as well as it could have been but think of the possibilities: a desire to check for winter root damage by voles, for example (a serious issue in Newfoundland), or splitting of bush trunks by snow loads. Do some of those shrubs need to be tied until spring finally comes?
At any rate, immaterial to the story, which is the good part.

From what I’ve read, yes – it’s very good. Some Arctic travelers are said to prefer it to seal. I’ve only had black bear and it was great.

You all might enjoy my follow-up post on this International Polar Bear Day (Feb. 27):
All the best,
Susan Crockford


Dr. Crockford,
Your follow-up post linked above is excellent.


I suspect if polar bears can’t find ice they’ll adapt as all animals do, and hunt on land. One thing’s pretty certain, they won’t stop eating.