BBC’s One Planet falsely claims that polar bears hunting whales from shore is an unprecedented effect of climate change

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on November 30, 2019

Polar bears leaping on the backs of belugas off Seal River, in western Hudson Bay, is being falsely promoted by the BBC’s new “Seven Worlds: One Planet” TV special as an unprecedented effect of climate change.

Bear hunting beluga Seal River Sept 2017 Quent Plett photo

More specifically, the Daily Mail (30 November 2019) this morning quoted the documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, as saying:

‘This extraordinary behaviour has only been recorded here, in this remote corner of North America, and only in the last few years.’

Poppycock. More climate change hyperbole from Attenborough’s seemingly never-ending litany of nonsense that’s easily refuted. There is scientific literature documenting such behaviour in Canada’s far north in the 1980s, which I included in the blog post I wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago (after National Geographic published a similar scare-story), which I have reposted below.

And from the sounds of it, there was no mention in the BBC special that freeze-up along western Hudson Bay was early again this year: for the third year in a row. So if the footage was filmed any time since 2017, the claim of accelerating sea ice loss in this region and bears on land for longer than ever is pure fantasy. PS. Fat bears are not ‘starving’.

Reposted from May 6, 2019

This time National Geographic’s ‘Hostile Planet’ series laughably claims a fat polar bear that’s caught a beluga calf off the coast of Western Hudson Bay has been saved from starvation! The message: here is a prime example of climate change pushing a species to its limit. This is nonsense, of course: polar bears hunting beluga whales from rocks has nothing to do with climate change or desperately hungry bears. More importantly, there is a much better video of the action that is both more informative and truthful.

See both below and decide which you’d prefer your kids or grandkids to watch.

National Geographic footage with focus on climate change

First, here is the polar bear sequence from the ‘Hostile Planet’ series, which it has clearly released for distribution to the media:

Applying standard media hyperbole, Rolling Stone Magazine rephrased this to read “See a Starving Polar Bear Hunt for Beluga Whales” as if viewers can’t see the rolls of fat on this bear with their own eyes. Says Rolling Stone, 6 May 2019 [links in the original, my bold]:

“Some scientists fear a third of the polar bears in the world may be gone by 2030 due to climate change and how it will affect future sea conditions. To show how the species is struggling to survive as they search for food, National Geographic captured a moment where a starving polar bear hunts a pod of beluga whales in open water in Canada’s Hudson Bay. Featured in Hostile Planet‘s finale on Monday, it’s a chilling a reminder of how the Arctic predators are desperate to find prey to meet their needs.

The six-part nature docuseries, hosted and narrated by Bear Grylls, zooms in on the world’s most extreme habitats to reveal the animal kingdom’s most dramatic stories of survival on our changing planet.

The Hostile Planet series finale airs tonight at 9pmET/PT on National Geographic.”

Wildlife guides on the ground

However, we know from reports from guides at the Seal River Heritage Lodge that polar bears hunting beluga from rocks were observed in late summer (August/September) 2017 at the mouth of the Seal River, which is north of Churchill on Western Hudson Bay (see map below). This was the same summer a litter of triplet cubs were spotted in the area, discussed in the same report.

Seal River Lodge location 2017

A photo of a Seal River polar bear hunting beluga from a rock, late summer 2017:

Bear hunting beluga Seal River Sept 2017 Quent Plett photo

CBC nature film footage

As the video below, from CBC’s “The Wild Canadian Year: Summer” narrated by David Suzuki of “The Nature of Things” (uploaded 8 December 2018 to Youtube). I’m no fan of Sukuki’s stance on climate change but am happy to report it does not enter the narrative here, at least in the polar bear clip (I haven’t listened to the rest).

The polar bear hunting beluga sequence starts at 36:50 with the catch at about 42:00.

Clearly, dozens of bears have learned this hunting strategy – probably after watching one local individual give it a try. Polar bear cubs learn hunting skills by watching their mothers, so they are primed to learn a new skill by watching other adults do it. These bears are very smart and learn quickly.

This new hunting strategy had nothing to do with being ‘desperate’ for food, since the bears shown in this video are in excellent condition, as were most bears that summer. Fall freeze-up came early in 2017 (and again in 2018), so they had a shorter wait than usual before they could hunt seals from the ice again.

However, polar bears hunting beluga whale calves in open water is not unheard-of behaviour that has only emerged recently due to climate change: researchers in the 1980s saw bears in the Canadian Arctic hunt beluga calves close to the shore of Somerset Island in a similar if not identical manner (ironically, this is the same island where NG’s equally misleading ‘starving’ polar bear was filmed in 2017). In one case, rather than a rock, a big male bear in 1985 used an isolated pan of ice as a platform from which to leap onto beluga calves swimming in the water (Smith and Sjare 1990:100).

References

Smith, T.G. and Sjare, B. 1990. Predation of belugas and narwhals by polar bears in nearshore areas of the Canadian High Arctic. Arctic 43(2):99-102. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic1597

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85 thoughts on “BBC’s One Planet falsely claims that polar bears hunting whales from shore is an unprecedented effect of climate change

    • “Some scientists fear a third of the polar bears in the world may be gone by 2030”

      The same alleged scientists fearing polar bears suffering drastic climate caused population decline are the ones that claim the polar bears are starving.
      Even as the fat polar bears feast on whales they caught themselves. Isn’t it amazing that bears can catch, subdue and kill a whale?
      Yet, to Attenborough, this is a sign of impending polar bear doom… A mouth long disconnected from a brain.

      • With a life expectancy of 15-18 years I would expect 1/3 of the currently living polar bears to have died by 2030. A true statement made in such a way as to make the normal highly unusual.

      • Yes, I was wondering whatever happened to the “save the whales” movement.

        If we were causing polar bear numbers to decline ( rather than restoring them by banning hunting ) wouldn’t that be a great move to “save the whales” ?

        Attenborough heaves a sigh of relief as his poor forlorn bear rips a baby whale apart in front of his eyes.

    • I think one should posit the question the other-way-round:
      Why are these polar bears reproducing at at this high a rate — to be starving?

      Also, it is really heart-breaking to see/hear these icons’s (Attenborough, Suzuki etc.) pathetic attempts to jump on the Climate Change band-wagon.

      BTW
      Seems that this year the ice in Hudson Bay may be a bit late: Ice service from EC Canada

    • Despite at least 1000 being killed every year for the last 10 years and further culls being demanded. May be starving because of massive increase in numbers?

  1. “Clearly, dozens of bears have learned this hunting strategy – probably after watching one local individual give it a try.”

    They’re all going to know it now, after seeing this latest episode of One Planet!

    • That’s the program I was thinking of, too, Phil, as I was watching the current Attenborough nonsense. Back then, the polar bear was supposed to be on the verge of extinction according to the climate Chicken Littles.

      It’s all a load of tripe.

  2. Americans suffer from “food insecurity” while weighing 300lbs…..A polar bear with rolls of fat “starving” is just an extention of the termination of reality by your loving press and government.

    • Notice they caterwaul about the children “going hungry in America” as opposed to being malnourished. Eating starchy carbs will do that. I drive a city bus that drops customers off at the local welfare office and I can assure you, judging from the fat little sausages that are they and their children, that they are assuredly NOT malnourished.

  3. A simple two second google search turns up:

    Published in 1989: “Predation of Belugas and Narwhals by Polar Bears ”

    In 1981: “Ursus maritimus” “Occasional references (Freeman, 1973: Heyland and Hay, 1976) have been made to polar bears attacking beluga whales”

    • Still due to Climate Change, it was getting colder by 1974, so the polar bears were getting hungrier….CC is the answer for everything about polar bears, polar vortex, anything polar actually…..

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but polar bears eat ‘any’ meat source available (seals, whales, fish, rabbits, humans, etc). They simply aren’t picky. If you had coyotes that far north, they’d be on the dinner menu as well.

  5. It is imperative that climate change is invoked every time something bad happens. If it’s not bad, it has to be described as bad anyway.

    The trouble is that people will become cynical as they notice the steady drum beat of alarmism. People who are old enough will notice that perfectly normal weather events are now blamed on CAGW.

    The thing that gets up my nose is that the alarmists invoke science. When the scientists object to obvious bs, they are ignored. Yeah, right, believe the science but ignore the scientists.

  6. Years ago I saw a video showing a polar bear hunting and then struggling to haul out a beluga whale. He was looking tired but proud about his catch. Then a bigger bear happened by and did the polar equivalent of “Good job kid! I’ll take it from here.”

  7. It is an interesting measure of the professional competence of journalists in the BBC and elsewhere that they have apparently swallowed this nonsense without the slightest doubt or research, while a bunch of complete amateurs on WUWT has dug up dozens of well-documented instances of beluga hunting by polar bears all over the Arctic and over almost a hundred years in half an hour.

  8. From my file of quotes and smart remarks:

    “Observing something for the first time, doesn’t mean it has never happened before.”

  9. And from the sounds of it, there was no mention in the BBC special that freeze-up along western Hudson Bay was early again this year: for the third year in a row. So if the footage was filmed any time since 2017, the claim of accelerating sea ice loss in this region and bears on land for longer than ever is pure fantasy.
    This seems to be contradicted by the Canadian Sea Ice Service:
    “Summary for November 15 to 27.
    Average air temperatures have been much above normal in Foxe Basin and
    northern Hudson Bay by up to 8 degrees Celsius. Elsewhere, average air
    temperatures have been above normal.

    Weather forecast for November 29 to December 31.
    Air temperatures are forecast to be near normal over Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait
    and James Bay. Air temperatures are forecast to be above normal for Davis
    Strait and along the Labrador coast. Freeze-up is forecast to be 1-2 weeks later
    than normal.

  10. The BBC is one of the world’s greatest purveyors of fake news. The BBC will say anything to scare the populace with the “climate emergency” and keep the “climate change” scam going. The BBC is a giant watermelon.

    • The BBC is not only the purveyor of fake news, they actively hid/hide criminals within their ranks. In about 1978, Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols fame, was interviewed not sure who by however, he talked about a certain “entertainer” that usually wore tracksuits and almost always had a cigar in his mouth and how he, in real life, wasn’t what he pretended to be on air. After the “entertainer’s” passing all was laid bare for the public to see. Rotten was right in 1978 but the BBC didn’t air that interview, ever.

      • For a long time the BBC did all they could to protect the loathesome Jimmy Saville, despite his appalling child abuse. Now they’re doing the same with respect to climate change.

        People might say that comparing Saville with climate alarmists is unfair. I would agree. The damage caused by climate alarmism is far, far worse.
        Jimmy Saville abused women and children. The climate alarmists are abusing the entire human race.
        Chris

  11. “Polar bear hunting beluga whales at Seal River” is the phoniest-looking pic I’ve ever seen. Water’s edge in distance looks suspiciously close, rock appears inserted, and upper edge of neck against trees is far cleaner than back against sky. PhotoShopped?

    • Good eyes! The photo has definitely been photoshopped (or equivalent). Key giveaways (easily visible upon 2X-4X enlargement of the “photo”), beyond those noted by navy bob:
      1) evidence of continuous vertical lines and vertical banding in looking at across-vertical pixelation of image, especially in the waters on either side of the bear, and way beyond random alignments expected in the low resolution image,
      2) evidence of areas of larger pixelation on the bear that are inconsistent with the rest of the the general pixelation of the bear’s image, and much beyond that characteristic of uniform jpeg compression-introduced artifacts,
      3) very suspicious (inconsistent) areas of pixelation smoothing/smearing and blending at the background water-land interface at the immediate rear of the bear and on either side of its nose,
      4) the water surface is very wavy, but there is absolutely no evidence that such waves have splashed at the water-rock interface of the rock outcrop the bear is standing on (i.e., would expect dark areas where wave splashes have recently wet the rock),
      5) the bear’s fur appears to be very dry, with no evidence of water dripping down upon the rock it is standing on . . . hard to believe the bear would have stood on such a small rock in such a position for the hour or two it would have taken for its fur to dry out in what is obviously a relatively humid environment,
      6) the perspective is all wrong for the water-land interface beyond the bear, and the scale of the water waves at that interface is inconsistent with the scale of the rocks and trees at that distant “seashore”,
      7) related to 6, there is in fact no seashore nor evidence of water erosion at the “interface” of the water and the land in the background.

      Conclusion: an image of a wavy ocean or lake was pasted over a different image of a landscape with sky and then a different image of a dry polar climbing on a rock (momentarily) was pasted into the wavy sea and across the landscape/sky background.

      That the BBC and/or Polar Bear Science author(s) felt the need to use a doctored photo to support their claim speaks volumes.

    • . . . and, ooops, I forgot to include in my above post the nail-in-the coffin evidence that the “polar bear hunting” photo is fake: just look at the shadowing differences:
      — the shadows in the “river” waves indicate light coming from forward upper right of camera
      — the shadows in the background trees indicate light coming from forward upper left of camera
      — the shadows on the bear indicate light coming above and behind the camera.

      • Gordon , I have just been watching that episode and while I agree that the stills look “off” the actual video and the follow up showing the photographers looking for that hunting activity look genuine to me. I think that what we have is the contrast between the actual filming and the post production editing and commentary which are by 2 different teams .
        From the accents in the film the filming team was American or Canadian, working for or with Parks Canada. As divers and photographers their interest is in the filming work and its problems, and I doubt if they have any academic knowledge of the history of polar bear hunting.Why should they? They are there to provide the raw material to the best of their professional ability and they did an excellent job.
        From them the raw footage goes to the BBC studios for editing and commentary and that is where the problem, from the point of view of acaemic respectability. begins. Attenborough has an agenda, every film has to be scrunched and squeezed into that agenda, so that the whale hunting activity is said to be a new, desperate, venture by bears driven to the point of starvation and extinction by global warming.
        So many here have demonstrated that this is not new behaviour, that it has been described in books and academic journals long before worries about loss of sea ice – so why is the BBC not aware of this work. Given the large number of researchers and journalists that it has, each of which has access to all published papers going back many years either these journalists are unbelievably thick or lazy, or the BBC producers led by the untouchable Attenborough, are conniving reluctantly or enthusiastically in scientific fraud.

        • Well, if you want to see a very similar polar bear near a very similar rock, but at different water level (high tide?) and different skyline/background, by the same photographer, check out this URL: https://www.churchillwild.com/record-polar-bear-sightings-summer-seal-river-heritage-lodge/

          In the fourth photo in the linked article you can see a mature polar bear wading up to a rock’s pinnacle with apparently three cubs in the water swimming up to the site. This photo is realistic, with correct perspective and correct shadowing.

          If this is the one and same rock, the site does not look good for hunting beluga whales due to its obvious proximity to marsh grass.

          Begs the question of why the photographer(s) couldn’t get an actual still photo of a bear leaping after/onto a beluga whale?

          Oh, and these quotes from the article at the linked site:
          “Our best day was 18 bears at the lodge or in the river mouth and all the bears we’ve seen have been fat and healthy.”
          “In recent seasons we have discovered that Seal River is home to the only polar bears on the planet that actively hunt beluga whales. A very talented and ingenious population of summer resident polar bears have perfected the fine art of capturing beluga whales at the mouth of our river.”

          Marketing-confused-science at its finest!

      • I tend to agree, this photo has been altered significantly. What I see looks like a very poor attempt at cloning just to the front of the bear’s front leg. Something was removed from this area. A cub perhaps? Is there a ghostly residual trace of a cub’s head still there? Is that a small leg and foot just to the front of bears left rear leg? Hard to be sure but it looks as original as a $3 bill.

      • Who has accused, let alone “attacked”, Quent Plett in any of the above postings? Anyone can alter/fake a photo taken by someone else?

        Why do you, John, presume that Mr. Plett is the guilty party in this? Have you contacted him?

    • the bit about suffering in the hot sun and the psuedo heatwaves?
      funny that cos polar bears in Zoos in Aus might have chilled water but they happily sunbake on days over 30c too

  12. Are they using harpoons? That is the only way Polar Bears hunting Belugas(and walarussi and sealsss) would be unprecedented. There is simply no limit to the lies these lying liars spew for their twisted religion.

  13. Attenborough has become a horribly dishonest purveyor of alarm. A bad narrative is misleadingly superimposed on video to creat great lies. I documented his dishonesty regards polar bears and walrus.
    http://landscapesandcycles.net/attenborough-s-polar-bears–believe-only-half-.html

    There many published records of polar bears hunting Belugas. Primarily when they are entrapped in ice, but also as they swim through open leads as well as in shallow water. For a list of all the records of polar bear depredation of belugas read the 1987 review

    Polar bear, Ursus maritimus , predation on belugas, Delphinapterus leucas , in the Bering and Chukchi seas.
    Lowry, L ; Burns, J ; Nelson, R
    Canadian field-naturalist. Ottawa ON, 0, 1987, Vol.101(2), pp.141-146

  14. Bears will eat anything, anytime, any place. They are walking garbage cans. Easily adaptable and quick learners. If someone offers you bear meat to eat, just make sure it isn’t from a dump bear, you want the wilderness fed bear meat.

  15. The followers of Paul Homewood’s Not A Lot Of People Know That blog often send complaints to the BBC about their fake climate change stories. The responses are quite fascinating examples of evasion and obfuscation. On rare occasions they will admit that they got something wrong but with a caveat that it was basically correct really. This particular example is a classic case of fake news, but just you try to get them to admit it.

  16. I’m surprised that nobody has claimed that the header photo shows a Polar Bear trapped by rapidly rising sea levels…

  17. The internet is full of published documents and further citations describing Polar Bear Beluga kills in maximum and minimum ice conditions and many general info pages on Polar Bear mention it (although it’s not a major prey species).

    https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ac89/f69c3b949f23601cf4918e04cbdbca7905f2.pdf

    http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic29-1-56.pdf

    Even NOAA.

    ” Instances of polar bears killing beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) have been reported (DegerbZI and Freuchen 1935, Kleinenberg et al. 1964, Freeman 1973, Heyland and Hay 1976).”

    https://swfsc.noaa.gov/publications/CR/1988/8804.PDF

  18. Has the video “The Wild Canadian Year: …” disappeared?

    I have tried to view it from both a Swedish IP (direct) and a French IP (proxy), but I get this message from YT:
    “ERROR: This video is not available.
    Sorry about that.”

  19. Maybe us over 75 should start a campaign. No payment of TV license until truth and non partisanship prevail at the BBC. Let’s put pressure on them. Climate warmists do not get to decide who is allowed to debate.

  20. A quiz programme on British television recently asked a contestant to name the ten most-threatened land mammals, according to the WWF. Surprise, surprise: polar bears were on the list.

  21. Long time reader, first time commenting. Against my better judgement, I watched the Antarctic episode of the series and David Attenborough showed a “heart-rending” scene about a grey-headed albatross chick being blown off the nest by strong winds “due to climate change”. Well, as someone who spent 14 months as a meteorologist on a sub-Antarctic Island 35 years ago, and saw the same thing on a fairly regular basis, my interest was piqued, so I downloaded historical daily wind data from the South Atlantic and South Indian Ocean sub-Antarctic islands (some going back to the 1950s). I looked for trends in mean daily as well as sustained maximum wind speeds (no gust data was available, unfortunately). The result: no trend for most stations and a downward trend for another. This wasn’t the most robust statistical analysis, I admit, but the picture was clear. What with the polar bears, the walrus “suicide” and now this, I won’t be watching any more of this blatant propaganda.

    • The problems the g-h albatross faces are well documented and known by real science – millions are eaten alive by rodents(hence the rodent eradication programs on their main breeding sites!) and young birds have been satellite tracked to industrial fishing grounds, confirming what was suspected, they become bycatch by the thousands.

  22. Just had a ”scientist” on the radio this morning moaning about the decline in snakes here (Aust) with one of the causes being climate change. It’s clear this is politically driven because there is no way he could possibly come up with any evidence for this whatsoever. What has happened to science???

    • yeah well I happily call bullshit on that
      I will be paying for 2 yrs the bill for last yrs snakebit dog in my yard!
      $4,800 and 4 days hospital 2 days intensive care in that ;-((
      and at the vets today I asked had they had many bitten patients
      the answer was a firm and sad YES!

  23. BBC:
    This extraordinary behaviour has only been recorded here, in this remote corner of North America, and only in the last few years.

    tty:
    It is an interesting measure of the professional competence of journalists in the BBC and elsewhere that they have apparently swallowed this nonsense without the slightest doubt or research, while a bunch of complete amateurs on WUWT has dug up dozens of well-documented instances of beluga hunting by polar bears all over the Arctic and over almost a hundred years in half an hour.

    What more can one say?

  24. There was a program on the BBC last night of somesupposed comedian who went up to the arctic. He went to the ocean to see animals but could not because there was too much ice. Laughed myself to sleep on that one.

  25. So can’t this false information broadcast by the BBC be reported through official channels? I realize it’s probably fruitless to do so, but someone in the UK should at least make the effort, to document both the false information, and the (potential) lack of response.

  26. Endless complaints to the BBC are never answered, complaints of bias are rejected on the basis that “fair coverage” is given across all our outlets (prhaps the Russian service) etc. The next Conservative Government has suggested that they may loose their Charter though (effectively closed down), and it has made them a bit more even in the election coverage and interviewing. Interesting….

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