Bogus Greenpeace claim that lost Russian polar bear is evidence of climate change

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on April 18, 2019 | Comments Off on Bogus Greenpeace claim that lost Russian polar bear is evidence of climate change

Another day, another bogus starving polar bear claim from an environmental organization. Polar bear starvation is virtually never caused by climate change but apparently, Greenpeace thinks there are still some gullible folks out there who will believe anything they are told. A young male polar bear in poor condition found far south on the Russian coast of the Bering Sea a few days ago is an isolated incident: it is not evidence of anything except the sad fact that the life of a polar bear can sometimes be brutal. In contrast to these reports, Chukchi Sea polar bears are doing extremely well overall.

Exhausted polar bear Kamchatka_Guardian headline_18 April 2019

Headline from The Guardian 18 April 2019

Environmental activists are of course blaming climate change for the appearance of this ‘exhausted’ polar bear found in a Russian village on the edge of the Bering Sea on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the media has been more than happy to spread their allegations far and wide (here, here, and here).

Polar bear visits Kamchatka

In contrast, the full story carried by The Siberian Times (18 April 2019, with more pictures and video)  confirms the bear is a young male who arrived at Tilichiki on an ice flow that moved down the coast while the bulk of the Bering Sea ice was retreating north.  It was a sad accident of life that has apparently happened before: he, like a few others, happened to get caught on the wrong piece of ice. The Russian report does not include a quote from Greenpeace and does not mention climate change.

Here is how he is described:

‘Locals filmed it on video, photographed it, and yesterday – fed with fish, though, he did not eat much.

‘The bear looks drained and weak.

‘For some reason he does not catch fish and seals, which we have in good supply.’

Nor has he threatened people.

‘He did not even enter the village itself,’ she said.

‘He lies near the bay on the ice – close to our police station.”

And here is Greenpeace, trying to make this a story about climate change:

But this is a phenomenon that happens virtually every year somewhere across the Arctic and likely always has done. It is no more a story about climate change than the bogus starving polar bear video promoted by National Geographic and Paul Nicklen in late 2017:

In some areas, particularly the Bering, Barents and Labrador Seas, ice can retreat rapidly in the spring and bears can get left behind on isolated chunks of ice floe. See my last post about just such a bear onshore in Newfoundland, who may be in the same situation if he does not leave soon, or one from last year in the Barents Sea. Poor judgment cannot be blamed on climate change.

Moreover, some young bears will always be in poor condition at this time of year because they are inexperienced hunters and too small to compete against bigger, stronger bears: that is an established fact.

Bottom line: This lost Kamchatka bear is not evidence of climate change.

Some background on causes of loss of body condition, from my post last year:

There are at least eleven natural causes of loss of body condition for polar bears (getting thinner and/or emaciated to the point of death) that must be ruled out before starvation can be blamed on lack of sea ice (many of which require a necropsy):

  1. Lack of experience hunting (young bears, 2-5 yrs)
  2. Competition from older, bigger bears (young bears, 2-5 yrs)
  3. Competition from younger, stronger bears (old bears, > 20 yrs)
  4. Poor judgment
  5. Broken or rotting teeth (especially in old bears)
  6. Injuries from fighting (especially to the jaws)
  7. Injuries from hunting or falls (especially to the jaws)
  8. Illnesses (including cancers that cause muscle wasting)
  9. Thick ice in spring (fewer seals to hunt)
  10. Thick snow over ice in spring (seals hard to find)
  11. Less food for seals in summer (means less food for bears next spring)

References for above: 1-8. Amstrup 2003; Miller et al. 2006, 2015; Stirling 1974:1196; 9-11. Calvert et al. 1986:19, 24; Chambellant et al. 2012; Demaster et al. 1980; Derocher and Stirling 1992, 1995; Ferguson et al. 2005; Obbard et al. 2018 [yearling cub survival in 2015]; Ramsay and Stirling 1988; Rode et al. 2013, 2014, 2018; Stirling 2002; Stirling and Lunn 1997; Stirling et al. 1975a, b).

The reason a close examination of a thin bear is required to determine the cause of its condition is apparent below (even more so if the cause was an illness like cancer):

“I captured an emaciated but very large male polar bear one autumn when he should have been near his maximum weight. His weight was less than half that of similar-size males at that time. He seemed to be fit and his teeth were in excellent shape. On examination, however, we discovered that his maxilla [upper jaw] was broken through (Fig. 27.(0), and there was a pronounced gap in his palate. The front portion of his upper jaw was attached only by the skin and musculature of his lips. His ability to bite and hold large prey was seriously compromised. How tbis injury was sustained is not clear. He has not been recaptured, and given the bear’s lean state just before tbe harshest season of the year, I suspect he did not survive the winter. [Amstrup 2003:602, my bold]

As explained in my previous post, the few bears that come ashore in late spring (perhaps lured by abundant bird eggs on shore) and become stranded by retreating sea ice that does not make a timely return, are not victims of climate change per se but rather casualties of their own poor judgment. In the recent examples cited in Svalbard, the bears involved were not forced ashore but chose to do so, perhaps due to lack of experience and/or competition on the ice for available seals (items 1-3).

The last three items in the list above (9-11) reflect conditions in winter and spring that can effect survival and body condition later in the year but will not be obvious from a necropsy. These causes of poor body condition are more likely to be present if more than one bear is affected in a local area.

For example, #9 (thick ice in spring) was the reason given for many bears starving in the spring of 1974 in the Southern Beaufort (Demaster et al. 1980; Stirling 2002; Stirling and Lunn 1997; Stirling et al. 1975a,b) and in Western Hudson Bay in the early 1990s (Calvert et al. 1986:19, 24; Chambellant et al. 2012; Ramsay and Stirling 1988).

Similarly, #10 (thick snow over ice) was the likely reason that many bears that came ashore in less than good condition near Churchill in the 1980s (Ferguson et al. 2005) and perhaps for the poor condition and lower cub survival of bears in the 1980s (Derocher and Stirling 1992, 1995).

And #11 (less food for seals in summer) explains why the condition of virtually all bears in the Chukchi Sea improved after 2006 when there was less summer ice compared to the 1980s, because less summer ice meant more time for seals to feed and therefore more fat seal pups for polar bears to eat the following spring (Rode et al. 2013, 2014, 2018).

It is likely that one of the last three listed causes was responsible for the unexplained low survival of yearling bears (about 3%) in Western Hudson Bay that would have been born in 2010 and 2015 (Dyck et al. 2017; Stapleton et al. 2014; Obbard et al. 2018) and Southern Hudson Bay in 2015 (Obbard et al. 2018). Although the ice-free season was unusually long in 2010, even by recent standards (Lunn et al. 2016), that was not the case for 2015 (Obbard et al. 2018). In other words, survival of cubs was low in recent years in two adjacent regions but could not be conclusively blamed on reduced sea ice.

In any case, the trend data is inconclusive. The summary paper by Stirling and Derocher (2012) is still presented as “evidence” that sea ice declines caused declines in body condition that eventually led to population decline, even though the Western Hudson Bay data on body condition has not been updated since 2004 and in any case never explained the decline in body condition that happened in the 1980s (before sea ice declined). More importantly, the trend from Western Hudson Bay is not matched by similar trends from other regions.

Contrary to predictions, Chukchi Sea polar bears have became fatter with less summer sea ice (Rode et al. 2013, 2014, 2018), not thinner. And for years, the body condition of Southern Hudson Bay bears declined only slightly (Obbard et al. 2004, 2006, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016), even though the decline of sea ice since 1998 has been as severe as for adjacent Western Hudson Bay bears. Only by an application of statisitcal magic did the latest population count of SH bears show a slight decline (Obbard et al. 2018), and body condition data was not revealed. As noted above, the authors did not blame lack of sea ice for the poor survival of Southern Hudson Bay cubs in 2015: they left it unexplained.

Bottom line: Trends don’t explain individual observations. When polar bear specialists raise the point that trends in declining weights of polar bears correlate to trends in early breakup dates or an extended ice-free season (see discussions here and here) in the context of explaining the state of a particular thin or starving bear, they are perpetuating the white lie.

References

Amstrup, S.C. 2003. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus). In Wild Mammals of North America, G.A. Feldhamer, B.C. Thompson and J.A. Chapman (eds), pg. 587-610. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Calvert, W., Stirling, I., Schweinsburg, R.E., Lee, L.J., Kolenosky, G.B., Shoesmith, M., Smith, B., Crete, M. and Luttich, S. 1986. Polar bear management in Canada 1982-84. In: Polar Bears: Proceedings of the 9th meeting of the Polar Bear Specialists Group IUCN/SSC, 9-11 August, 1985, Edmonton, Canada. Anonymous (eds). Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge UK, IUCN. http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/meetings/ pg. 19-34.

Chambellant, M., Stirling, I., Gough, W.A. and Ferguson, S.H. 2012. Temporal variations in Hudson Bay ringed seal (Phoca hispida) life-history parameters in relation to environment. Journal of Mammalogy 93:267-281.

DeMaster, D.P., Kingsley, M.C.S. & Stirling, I. 1980. A multiple mark and recapture estimate applied to polar bears. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 58, 633-638.

Derocher, A.E. and Stirling, I. 1992. The population dynamics of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. pg. 1150-1159 in D. R. McCullough and R. H. Barrett, eds. Wildlife 2001: Populations. Elsevier Sci. Publ., London, U.K.

Derocher, A.E. and Stirling, I. 1995. Temporal variation in reproduction and body mass of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1657-1665. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z95-197

Dyck, M., Campbell, M., Lee, D., Boulanger, J. and Hedman, D. 2017. 2016 Aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation. Final report, Nunavut Department of Environment, Wildlife Research Section, Iglolik, NU.

Ferguson, S.H., Stirling, I., and McLoughlin, P. 2005. Climate change and ringed seal (Phoca hispida) recruitment in Western Hudson Bay. Marine Mammal Science 21:121-135.

Lunn, N.J., Servanty, S., Regehr, E.V., Converse, S.J., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2016. Demography of an apex predator at the edge of its range – impacts of changing sea ice on polar bears in Hudson Bay. Ecological Applications, in press. DOI: 10.1890/15-1256

Miller, S., Schliebe, S. and Proffitt, K. 2006. Demographics and Behavior of Polar Bears Feeding on Bowhead Whale Carcasses at Barter and Cross Islands, Alaska, 2002-2004. Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Study MMS 2006-14, US Dept. of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Anchorage. Pdf here.

Miller, S., Wilder, J. and Wilson, R.R. 2015. Polar bear–grizzly bear interactions during the autumn open-water period in Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/09/10/jmammal.gyv140
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyv140

Obbard, M.E., Cattet, M.R.L., Moody, T., Walton, L.R., Potter, D., Inglis, J. and Chenier, C. 2006. Temporal trends in the body condition of southern Hudson Bay polar bears. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Applied Research and Development Branch, Sault Ste, Marie, Canada. Climate Change Research Information Note 3. Available from http://sit.mnr.gov.on.ca

Obbard, M.E., Cattet, M.R.I., Howe, E.J., Middel, K.R., Newton, E.J., Kolenosky, G.B., Abraham, K.F. and Greenwood, C.J. 2016. Trends in body condition in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the Southern Hudson Bay subpopulation in relation to changes in sea ice. Arctic Science, in press. 10.1139/AS-2015-0027

Obbard, M.E., McDonald, T.L., Howe, E.J., Regehr, E.V. and Richardson, E.S. 2007. Polar bear population status in southern Hudson Bay, Canada. Administrative Report, U.S. Department of the Interior- U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA.

Obbard, M.E., Middel, K.R., Stapleton, S., Thibault, I., Brodeur, V. and Jutras, C. 2013. Estimating abundance of the Southern Hudson Bay polar bears subpopulation using aerial surveys, 2011 and 2012. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Wildlife Research and Monitoring Section, Science and Research Branch, Wildlife Research Series 2013-01. Peterborough, Ontario. Pdf here.

Obbard, M. E. and Walton, L.R. 2004. The importance of polar bear provincial park to the southern Hudson Bay polar bear population in the context of future climate change. Proceedings of the Parks Research Forum of Ontario (PRFO):105-116. [added July 26, 2013] pdf here.

Obbard, M.E., Stapleton, S., Middel, K.R., Thibault, I., Brodeur, V. and Jutras, C. 2015. Estimating the abundance of the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation with aerial surveys. Polar Biology 38:1713-1725.

Obbard, M.E., Stapleton, S., Szor, G., Middel, K.R., Jutras, C. and Dyck, M. 2018. Estimating the abundance of the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation with aerial surveys. Arctic Science https://doi.org/10.1139/AS-2018-0004

Ramsay, M.A. and Stirling, I. 1988. Reproductive biology and ecology of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Journal of Zoology London 214:601-624.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1988.tb03762.x/abstract

Rode, K.D., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2013. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Oral presentation by Karyn Rode, 28th Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, March 26-29. Anchorage, AK. Abstract below, pdf here.

Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2014. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76-88. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12339/abstract

Rode, K.D., Wilson, R.R., Douglas, D.C., Muhlenbruch, V., Atwood, T.C., Regehr, E.V., Richardson, E.S., Pilfold, N.W., Derocher, A.E., Durner, G.M., Stirling, I., Amstrup, S.C., St. Martin, M., Pagano, A.M. and Simac, K. 2018. Spring fasting behavior in a marine apex predator provides an index of ecosystem productivity. Global Change Biology

Stapleton S., Atkinson, S., Hedman, D., and Garshelis, D. 2014. Revisiting Western Hudson Bay: using aerial surveys to update polar bear abundance in a sentinel population. Biological Conservation 170:38-47. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320713004618#

Stirling, I. 1974. Midsummer observations on the behavior of wild polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 52: 1191-1198. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z74-157#.VR2zaOFmwS4

Stirling, I. 2002. Polar bears and seals in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf: a synthesis of population trends and ecological relationships over three decades. Arctic 55 (Suppl. 1):59-76. http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/issue/view/42

Stirling, I., Andriashek, D., Latour, P.B. & Calvert, W. 1975a. Distribution and abundance of polar bears in the Eastern Beaufort Sea. Beaufort Sea Tech. Report #2, Dept. Environment, Victoria, B.C.

Stirling, I., Archibald, R. & DeMaster, D. 1975b. Distribution and abundance of seals in the Eastern Beaufort Sea. Beaufort Sea Tech. Report #1, Dept. Environment, Victoria, B.C.

Stirling, I. and Lunn, N.J. 1997. Environmental fluctuations in arctic marine ecosystems as reflected by variability in reproduction of polar bears and ringed seals. In Ecology of Arctic Environments, Woodin, S.J. and Marquiss, M. (eds), pg. 167-181. Blackwell Science, UK.

Stirling, I. and Derocher, A.E. 2012. Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence. Global Change Biology 18:2694-2706. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02753.x

39 thoughts on “Bogus Greenpeace claim that lost Russian polar bear is evidence of climate change

  1. Propaganda and nothing more. Why they go through such efforts to present such easily debunked stuff is a testament to propaganda.

    • There are 25,000-30,000 polar bears. One goes the wrong way and it’s international news and “proof” of climate catastrophe.

      Darwinian selection is supposed to get rid of individuals who go south looking for ice and seals. Human intervention will now put this one back into the polar gene-pool.

    • In part because they make this stuff up as they go along. They are operating on the fly and figure if they fling enough pooh a lot of it will stick, especially with people who simply aren’t paying close enough attention. It is all about the volume of believers for them.

      I can easily debunk a believer in conversation by simply asking them to verify their source of information and correcting them when they come back with a blank look. That does not mean I have converted the believer. Those who publish this propaganda know that. Once they are absorbed back into their Borg groups they go right back to their beliefs.

  2. I am sick to the back teeth with ”researchers” vomiting up the is kind of garbage. They must make shit up while dreaming. The very notion that polar bears are so sensitive to a 1 degree change in temperature and the ”catastrophic” ice melt that goes along with it that they just lose all hope and starve to death should be exposed at every opportunity for the complete contemptuous mind fart that it is.

    • No, they don’t. Until the internal combustion engine was mass-produced, every polar bear that was ever born was still alive. Their rise in population was cumulative. Many were over 400,000 years old. By comparison, Methuselah was an amateur.

      Now the bears are doomed, unless humanity gives up all our machinery — including the helicopters and satellites used to take the polar bear census.

  3. Ka-Ching go the “Donate” Buttons every time they do this. Put a waify looking little girl at a table with a polar bear poster, collecting for Greenpeace, and you’ll get a grand an afternoon, but why actually pay someone 50 bucks salary when the donate button hits a wider audience?

  4. On an African safari in Botswana, we saw couple excruciating examples of the fact that animals don’t die a graceful death from old age or injury – they basically starve or get weaken enough to be taken by predators.

    Other than man, Polar bears don’t appear to have natural predators – that leaves starvation.

    Given 50,000 polar bears (Griff would know the exact number) and an 8-year average life-span, roughly 6,000 die/year, presenting plenty of gut-wrenching photo opportunities…

    • I shall defer to the eminent Dr Crawford for exact numbers, but I believe it is closer to 25,000 – 30,000 polar bears now.
      Up from all previous records …
      So, assume 2 bears per female (50% of the total adults), and a 5% population increase per year (nominal), and assume half of the females have cubs each year, that would imply:
      30,000 x 0.50 = 15,000 females x 60% in breeding age = 9,000 breeding females
      9,000 breeding females x 2 cubs per female x 50% fertility x 1.05 = 9,450 new polar bears per year.
      therefore, some 9,000 polar bears must die each year.

        • Jeff & RACookPE1978

          I was indeed being sarcastic about the eminent polar bear scholar & gentleman Griff (who once called Dr Crockford unqualified to comment on polar bears; also has taken some nasty shots at Dr Curry. Griff enjoys anonymous & fact-free attacks on women).

          I too should have deferred to Dr Crockford for the polar bear population, but I was making the point that, on any given day, even with a thriving polar bear population, a photographer will be able to find an animal dying of injury or old age.

  5. Unfortunately 29 references in a blog and numerous papers debunking the polar bear extinction myth count for nothing in the minds of us UK television viewers. We lap up adverts showing young children who are paid to voiceover “I want to live in a world where we still have polar bears.”[1,2] or old fossils telling us that the end of the world is nigh[3].
    [1] Advertisement for smart meters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdZwEHmGeJ0 (with English subtitles; vomit bags recommended)
    [2] Script for smart meter advertisment : https://www.smartenergygb.org/-/media/SmartEnergy/website-terms-and-conditions/ad-claims/I-want-a-smart-meter-radio-advert-claims.ashx
    [3] Climate Change: the (BBC) facts: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00049b1

    • The scientists part is right but polar bears can adapt, so they are not dumb. Climate “scientists” should live with polar bears. That should be very enjoyable for both.

  6. This always happens. Polar Bears turn up on Iceland almost every year for example. However there they are shot without ceremony as being dangerous to both people and livestock

    They have even turned up very occasionally in northern Norway (Varanger) which is quite remarkable as sea-ice never comes even near the coast there. They must have walked/swum several hundred kilometers to get there.

    I can understand that this particular bear is in a bad way. This is the season when Polar Bears gorge on seals (often young ones) and build up fat reserves that will last them for the rest of the year. If they miss this they are done for.

  7. By the way, while there has been less sea-ice than usual in the central Bering Sea this winter there was if anything more ice than normal along the Kamchatka coast and in the Sea of Okhotsk, which may have fooled a young and inexperienced bear to go too far south.

    And ony should remember that before they were exterminated by hunters there was a resident and thriving Polar Bear population as far south as on St Lawrence Island.

  8. I was wondering on what gut/bowel worms wild bears carry? theres some fungal infections they reckon are whats killed porpoises and other marine life recently also..and bears eat them and scavenge dead..
    whats the odds of “someone” mamanging to find its got a gutfull of plastic and ignore other causes

      • And don’t eat the lungs.

        As all Northerners know, never eat any portion of the liver of a polar bear. Same as with crocodile liver: you will die from vitamin A poisoning.

        Other odd facts about polar bears is that they have, like the dog breed “Chow”, purple tongues. They are black-skinned, and have hollow hair that traps solar energy. And they float (in part because of their hollow hair).

  9. The fate of all large predators with no natural enemy must surely always be starvation through not being able to hunt- by virtue of illness, old age, or injury?

  10. Polar bears are alpha-predators in a barren wasteland. The number of Polar Bears that environment can support is limited by the numbers and condition of their prey species (ringed seals, etc.). In the course of time some get sick, some get hurt, some starve. This is what we call Nature. Blaming global warming for any of this is nothing but propaganda. These bears have survived large natural swings in the timing and amount of ice and many warmer times in the past and the species has thrived. As long as man does not hunt them to excess they will be fine.

  11. Maybe the polar bear is sick, or injured in a subtle way that reduces it’s sharp physical skills to hunt.

    Maybe the polar bear is sick of climate alarmists using it for false-narrative promo — saying to itself, Kill me now quickly, before your boring doomsday babbling tortures me to death slowly.

  12. Of the roughly 30,000 polar bears now alive – and for all of their future offspring – death will never be a very pretty sight. That’s nature.

  13. How about all the hypochondriacs who are being driven to panic and despair by climate humbug? Innocent children being told by Pied Pipers of doom that their world will end before they’re 30?

    Is anyone agonizing over them?

  14. What is the point of this article? That someone made an exaggerated or provably false story about the true state of the climate trend (i.e., rapid and increasing trend to higher and higher global temps)?

    I think all people who are able to read and have bothered to do so have come to the consensus that qualified scientists came to 50 years ago: climate is warming rapidly and at an increasing pace. The only debate now is what, if anything, to do about it.

    Articles like this only serve to embarrass the few remaining deniers. Let’s stick with the real debate, please.

  15. Even the PCBBC in their latest propaganda session with the now worryingly decrepit David Attenborough as mouthpiece missed this one. When you are a believer in a religion EVERYTHING you see becomes a “sign”. The person or persons who dreamed this up are either exhibiting a psychosis or into the wilful propagandizing of nature for gain to 1. Get your money ( that is the least harmful thing they do) but that allows them to 2. Exert power over you. That is the really dangerous one and what this is all really about.

  16. The propagandists do the same thing with ‘Oh my God, glaciers are melting!!’ while showing the ubiquitous shot of huge pieces of glaciers splashing into the sea. Never mind that glaciers melt; otherwise, most of the Earth would still be covered with them. And of course glaciers have been calving since even before the Industrial Age if you can believe it.

  17. I’m getting older, less fit, and skin is starting to sag. Therefor anthropogenic climate change.

    Idiots.

  18. Life expectancy of polar bears is about 25 years . Even if they are lucky to not be shot for “ceremonial purposes ” , eaten by other polar bears , or “drown ‘ they have a pretty tough time . A bit of warming is the least of their worries .
    Shit they could even have BBC camera crews run them off cliffs with drones.

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