Polar bear cubs play on the thin ice that supposedly threatens them with extinction

From Polar Bear Science

Posted on December 21, 2019 |

This video tweet deserves a post of its own: two relatively inexperienced cubs-of-the-year in Russia deliberately break through thin ice, fall into the icy water and crawl back out – over and over again, for fun, as their mother watches in the background. Play is one way animals learn important survival lessons and for polar bears, this is one of them:

Thin ice was a natural component of the Arctic long before polar bears evolved to live there: it is nothing new but dealing with it requires a strategy that cubs must learn.

Here it is broken down as stills: one fat, Chukchi Sea cub deliberately pounces on the ice to break it:

Russian PB cubs deliberately break thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Both crawl out of the icy water:

Russian PB cubs struggle to get out of water surrounded by thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Both safely crawling over the thin ice:

Russian PB cubs crawl over thin ice 20 Dec 2019 screencap

Compare the above video to the photos and film clips below meant to frighten everyone (including small children) about the plight of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay, from the UK Mirror earlier this year (13 November 2019) “Exhausted polar bears cling to life on thawing ice as they face extinction: These are the desperate polar bears scrambling for survival on Arctic sea ice shrinking beneath their very paws as climate change takes its toll“:

Mirror photo pbs on thin ice_13 Nov 2019 James Breeden photo

“Polar bears are threatened with being wiped out by climate change” Mirror, 13 Nov 2019. James Breeden photo

Propaganda-style photo distributed by USGS, taken by US Coast Guard in August 2009:

On thin ice

Also from 2009, is a video from the BBC, called “Polar Bear on Thin Ice – Nature’s Great Events: The Great Melt – BBC One” (10 Feb 2009), which I believe was also used as fund-raising propaganda by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):

A 2015 pictorial in the Daily Mail (27 December) shows, through a sequence of photos taken by a crewmember of a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, how a big adult male in Alaska used the same strategy for dealing with thin ice as this year’s Russian cub:
2015 Beaufort Sea AK bear on thin ice Daily Mail photo example

104 thoughts on “Polar bear cubs play on the thin ice that supposedly threatens them with extinction

  1. They don’t seem bothered by the drone. I take shots and videos like those of coyotes here in So Arizona. They run off if the drone gets too close.

    • Polar bears have to learn fear of humans. Where an adult might avoid you, a juvenile may think of you as some kind of exotic snack.

        • They can smell the food cooking a mile away. Cats can smell cat food cans being opened even if they’re on the other side of your house. Never underestimate the power of the sense of smell that predators have.

          • The smell of food cooking should be a smell wild animals are unfamiliar with and not recognize or associate with food.

          • Then you’ve never had coyotes show up in your yard when you’ve been burning a steak on the grill, I take it. Predators can ID something from a distance because if it’s raw, they know that smell and subsequently cooking it teaches them it is also food.

          • “The smell of food cooking should be a smell wild animals are unfamiliar with and not recognize or associate with food.”

            As a matter of fact the smell of frying meat/fat can’t be that uncommon in areas where brush fires occur, it would be a very stupid coyote who couldn’t figure that one out.

            He might have more difficulty with vegan cooking, but he would probably still be curious enough to investigate.

          • Sara – December 22, 2019 at 3:03 pm

            They can smell the food cooking a mile away. Cats can smell cat food cans being opened even if they’re on the other side of your house. Never underestimate the power of the sense of smell that predators have.

            But, but, but Sara, ……. the “experts” on human evolution claim that our early human ancestors evolved bipedalism for the exact purpose of “standing up” so they could see predators before their predators could see them.

          • Jeff Alberts, the cats don’t come when I open a can of tomato sauce. 🙂

            Samuel Cogar: I’ve heard that, too. They still can’t explain why chimpanzees and gorillas walk on all fours, or why chimps make war on and cannibalize their neighbors.

          • @Gary.
            You don’t have to be familiar with cooked food to know that there is something good going on over there.

            If anything, it would make them curious.

            Forest fires have a very different odor.
            As does a hamburger forgotten upon the grill.

          • Salute Sara!

            I don’t know about your bears, but mine in Colorado mountains do not care much for the cooked/burned meat on the BBQ. They don’t even lick the spatula or fork if it has burned meat on it.

            What they do go after are the rags I wiped my hand with handling the raw meat and any container I used but left outside. Ditto for the racoons. Haven’t encountered a bobcat yeat, but will wait and see. Had some coyotes a few years back, but only saw one during daylight.

            “bear” in mind that we have had several forest fires neaby the last 15 years or so and maybe the critters associate something bad with the smell of smoking meat.

            Gums sends…

          • @ Gums

            Your bears in Colorado musta got their “learnin” from the Public School System.

            Cause I can guarantee you that the Black bears in the woods of upstate New York, Alaska and Canada will break into a cabin and ram sake its contents looking for “canned” food and will open the cans/containers up to eat it.

          • I was taken to look at the kitchen in a drilling camp in northern Ontario, which had been visited by a black bear. The bear had opened cans of jam and fruit (they can rip holes in cans with their claws as easily as we open a paper bag). But it had ignored the cans of vegetables and meat, tomato sauce etc..

            The question was: does the canning process leave traces of the contents on the outside of cans, sufficient for the bear to smell? Or did the bear look at the pictures on the labels?

            Or did the bear read the labels? Being Canada, the labels were bilingual, giving equal opportunity to bears that only understood French or English.

            This was in 1973. Very difficult to find jam in cans these days, unless you live in the prairie provinces.

          • Some cats and dogs know what their owner is planning to do – before they even open the tin. In the same way these animals can wait by the door or window when their owner has decided to come home – regardless of how far away he is and how he actually comes.

            I suggest you read the books of professor Rupert Shedrake. Fascinatin stuff. Totally unacceptable to academic scientists.

            “The Conscious Universe”

        • Salute!

          @ Sam Our Colorado bears are at least as smart as the Ivy League ones in the great northeast. Maybe just not as desparate due to all the undocumented Californians invading the state and besides bring their politics with them, they do not understand a bear’s “sweet tooth” and do things like bringing a candy bar into their tent when camping. Up at our fishing cabin club we routinely have “visits”, and the critters do, indeed, open cans. Worst thing we have found is melon rind and such at end of summer and early fall. A real shame, as the Colorado melons on the eastern slope are maybe the best in the U.S., ditto for peaches on the western slope.

          My point was I have yet to see the critter come on the deck when cooking a hamburger or steak, and haven’t seen one tear the BBQ apart to get to the burned meat on the grill that night But they have stolen my dish cloth I used when handling the uncooked meat. And one two years ago opened the door of a closeby neighbor’s car and pillaged the interior because there was a small bag of sweet cough drops or similar. Our worst encounter was one that bit into a can of spray paint, then made a nice swipe of paint along the side of our Subaru as it reared its head in an arc!! 20 years up there each summer, so I have been as close as 3 feet, and actually tried out my bear spray another time from 8 or 10 feet away.

          @ Smart.. I think the sweet tooth is the biggie, then uncooked meat. Lesson is to not handle stuff without washing/rinsing hands or using a wash of something to get rid of the odor best you can. I use “kitchen chlorox” spray, myself. If the bleach is good enuf for ebola, it’s good enuf for me.

          Gums sends…

      • Polar bears are not afraid of humans. Why should they? In most areas they haven’t been hunted for decades. Even adults don’t avoid humans, mostly they ignore you, or are simply curious, occasionally they may attack.
        Notice that the female don’t seem worried at all about the humans taking the video.

        • If a polar bear has had experience with humans, it will mostly be as unpleasant as possible, short of actually dispatching the bear to its home in Hades.

          So, polar bears do not naturally have a fear of humans. Since a visit from a polar bear is a big deal, the standard operating practice is to drive them far away from camp. If a loud noise won’t do it, folks have resorted to more drastic unapproved measures. In any event, even the dullest bear will realize it’s not welcome. Mostly they take the hint.

        • There are no humans visible to the PBs. It’s remotely operated small drone taking that vdeo and pictures. The humans could be up to 3-4 km away, but probably like 1 – 1.5 km away, staying out of sight.

    • They’re used to them now. The unmistakable background is Cape Schmidt where the BBC filmed walruses driven over the cliff by bears. Locals have been using drones to film the bears for some time now. Look at the videos posted by Anatoly Konchev here

      https://panzer-bjorn.livejournal.com/

      The current top post shows them not much deterred by Verey cartridges fired at them. In the end the bear patrol resorts to the carrot of some walrus carcass to lure them away from the village.

  2. All animals have their own survival mechanisms and people that aren’t around animals just don’t get that. For example, my Border Collie – Husky mixes frequently walk over to my chair and look at me like “when are you going to fill the food bowl again?” It’s an instinctive mechanism that makes my dogs uniquely capable of surviving the cold Northern Michigan winters.

    • mark; imagine how hard thousands of generations of dogs have worked to aquire just that look which has the greatest probabability of making humans do what the dogs want. You can see evolution at work in their hungry, faithful eyes.

      • Exactly. Just like the crying of a small child is precisely centered on the frequency band which adults find most irritating. Evolution at work.

    • When I was a kid living in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northwestern VA, we had a Norwegian Elk Hound. We would take her to one of the lakes in winter, so she could run across the ice looking for water to dive into.

  3. My niece is vary anxious about the poley bears dying out from global warming.

    She doesn’t like it when I tell her that hunting license restrictions will soon need to be lifted, because there’s just getting to be too many poley bears in the Arctic regions.

    Or the only other solution is to round up thousands at a time and move them to Antarctica 🙂

      • Perhaps not Los Angeles, but they still haven’t recolonized all areas where they once occurred. For example there was once a thriving population on St Lawrence Island which was exterminated in the nineteenth century.

    • Mr., no need to move them to Antarctica, they are already there. I have a refrigerator magnet, bought at Seaworld in Orlando, that shows poley bears and penguins together, and if you can’t trust Seaworld, who can you trust?

      • Ron, old joke:
        Why can’t Polar bears eat Penguins*? They can’t get the wrapper off!
        *(Type of UK chocolate bar).

  4. Plenty of human kids play on the road. Doesn’t mean it will end well for them…. And if thin ice is all you have to play on….

    • If you have ever seen adult bears hunting seals by punching through ice then you will realise the cubs are mimicking this behaviour. It may be play but it does have a purpose.

    • It’s Simple, Simon.
      It’s learned behaviour that these fat cubs enjoy…. and essential both for survival and hunting/catching seals at snow crusted breathing holes out on pack ice. The Danish Meteorological Institute shows the daily mean temperature North of 80 deg. north latitude is 250K or lower currently, at least -23K below freezing.

    • “Plenty of human kids play on the road. Doesn’t mean it will end well for them…. And if thin ice is all you have to play on….”

      You’re not too bright, are you.

  5. Quick somebody air drop ALGORE in to rescue the poor polar bears. Don’t forget the camera crew for “IT3 the Wrath of Greta”

  6. Dr Susan Crockford: speaking the truth about polar bears she fell foul of environmental activists who have long treated Ursus maritimus as one of the poster children for their “the Earth is doomed and it’s all our fault” narrative. As a result, without explanation, Crockford was ousted from her position at the university.

  7. The UK Mirror promotes this massive lie:

    ” from the UK Mirror earlier this year (13 November 2019) “Exhausted polar bears cling to life on thawing ice as they face extinction: These are the desperate polar bears scrambling for survival on Arctic sea ice shrinking beneath their very paws as climate change takes its toll“:”

    Reality: Polar Bear populations are NOT in a downswing and haven’t been for several decades now, even with the big drop in ice extent to the minimum in the Arctic region TWELVE YEARS ago!

    This is why I consider MSM spawns of the devil, they lie and distort by choice.

    • Some people lie to promote an agenda. Some lie because they like to lie–it becomes a second nature to them. Since the latter are so good at lying based on all that experience, they become quite useful for promoting agendas.

      I once heard a person like that saying, “I used to be a terrible liar. The “used to be” part was of course a lie. I could have responded,” Well you know, practice makes perfect.” However the option of saying that was not available at the time.

      • Ralph; I don’t mind liers, it’s an honest job. I’m far more worried about all those who fall for the most blatant lies, as long as they are in line with one’s moral and ideological illusions. These persons are dangerous to themselves and to others. And our “climate crises” world is full of them.

  8. Mama Bear & her cubs:

    “Carl, Bob! stop messing around and get back here this instant.”

    “Buuuut Mom, that’s where all the tasty seals hang out.”

    “Yes and if you get back here I’ll show you how to catch them. Don’t make me turn this floe around.”

  9. Would these events be the first time polar bears have broken through thin seasonal ice?
    Quite likely not, as they are bears that have evolved to thrive in the Arctic Ocean.
    The problem seems to be that today’s liberals can fret about anything.
    Particularly if they don’t understand it.
    One remedy could be taking a course in general geology taught not by a political scientist.

  10. Wait for It,… Any day now I expect some self important shill of a “scientist” to start a “fishing expedition” for grants to fund “Water-Wings for Polar Bears” in order to save the poor things. Then not too long after the first try they will shorten the tag line to “Wings for Polar Bears”. This way those hapless cubs will be able to make it to heaven and get away from those mean old non-believers.

    Merry Christmas to All. May you survive your turkey coma.

  11. No polar Bear crisis = no arctic crisis = no climate crisis.

    Can’t have that, of course. Therefore there MUST be a polar bear crisis and if there’s none, one must be invented. Otherwise we can’t sell the non-existent climate crisis either.

  12. We shouldn’t be surprised at climate researchers knowing better than Poley bears how to walk on thin ice.

    I’m just waiting for the headline that proclaims Archaeopteryx went extinct because they weren’t flying in the approved manner.

  13. The oldest Polar bear fossil found is about 130,000 years old. The Holocene Optimum ran from about 13,000 to 9,000 years BP. And of course there have been several warm periods since then. But to hear “Sir” David and the alarmists, you would think that polar bears never had to deal with thin ice ever before.

    • Estimates are that they’ve been around for between 150,000 to 1.7 million years. About as accurate as climate science.

      • About half a million year is the most likely age for when the Polar Bear lineage separated from the Brown Bear, but it is unusually difficult to calculate since there has been repeated hybridizations with different Brown Bear populations, which are themselves fairly well differentiated.

        The oldest Polar Bear fossil is from the previous interglacial, but they are very rare as fossil since they usually die in places where they don’t fossilize. Fossils are almost exclusively known from areas which were once ice-covered and where isostatic rebound has lifted marine sediments above sea-level (Svalbard, Scandinavia).

  14. So, do the climate alarmists now admit that there is no crisis for the polar bear population or are they still ranting that the population is collapsing? Is there an authoritative organization keeping track of the numbers and the health of this species?

    • No, those who wish to control every tiny area of our lives will never admit they were wrong. Their goal is 99% of the population in serfdom with them in the 1%.

  15. Seems to me that they figured out long ago that if you spread yourself out on the ice it lessens the pressure per square inch and you won’t fall through if you don’t want to. Obviously this pair wanted to.

  16. Thank you to Polar Bear Science for these observations and interpretations. You do a service to counter some unfounded assumptions purveyed by some biologists.

    I will tell you a story about a friend, Tom, who fished in Alaska for many years and as you may know bald eagles are very abundant and visible there. He saw an eagle dive for its prey at the sea surface (can not remember if Tom said it was going for a bird or a fish), but the eagle missed and landed in the water. It then dog-paddled to a haul out using its wings as oars. The bird was fine. Tom is a very experienced outdoors man.

    Sometime later, back in the Pacific Northwest, Tom attended a lecture by a biologist concerning bald eagles and related his observation of the swimming eagle. Tom said that she looked at me like I was the dumbest person on earth and said she had never heard of such a thing. Since hearing his story, I have learned that this behavior is not rare.

    (On Dec 20, 2019, I observed a bald eagle perched high in an old-growth snag for at least 6 hours in constant rain waiting for a fish carcass to float down the river. I think the eagles’ feathers are well-oiled.)

  17. They even instinctively know how to ‘walk’ on thin ice.
    The cub spreads itself (and its weight) out across the ice, and crawls forwards with its front paws.
    Just as a first-responder would tell you to do.

    R

  18. I stood watching a stoat run up the side of a tree, do a back flip, land on its feet and do it again, and again, and again.
    Obviously just for fun.

  19. Apparently the ancestors of today’s polar bears made it through the previous interglacial period, the Eemian, a period that was warmer than today with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels.

  20. In the BBC video:
    I enjoyed watching the big bear accommodate his movements as the ice started cracking.
    He switched from walking with his front paws to sliding them.

    Then he looked underneath the ice to see how far he had to go before the ice became thicker (or ground was near). He did this a couple of times.

    He also spread his weight a bit.

    All of this seems to imply that he knows what he was doing.

    • You’re implying that the BBC is mis-representing what the video shows. That’s simply not possible!

      Oh yeah. /sarc

  21. Weird thing. When I post a comment from this PC, it appears right away. When I post from my other PC sitting right next to it, the comment takes a long time to appear. I’ve accepted cookies on both.

  22. Getting out of a hole in the ice is not easy. A friend of mine almost didn’t make it until the drill crew, who were nearby, heard him and hauled him out.

    Our dog fell through the ice a few years back. As an overfed labrador, she had a similar body shape to a bear, and was totally unable to get traction. Our cabin is on a river so the ice never gets thick enough to walk on, except in shallow bays.

    We have to assume that if polar bears did not develop the skill (or the body configuration) to get out of holes in the ice, they would have gone extinct long ago, but it’s still impressive as heck to watch them do it. Perhaps not being afraid of the cold water helps.

    • To get out of a hole in the ice what you need is claws. Although dogs have claws, they are not the right claws. Bears can climb trees, dogs can’t.

  23. Shoki Kaneda:

    “Polar bears are smarter than liberals.”

    ____________________________________

    Shoki Kaneda, fight for polar bears suffrage.

    Polar bears have a right to vote!

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