Polar bears prowling Newfoundland come on top of coronavirus fears

From Polar Bear Science

Posted on March 19, 2020 |

On Tuesday 17 March 2020, several polar bears were reported in and around the community of St. Anthony on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, adding another threat on top of coronavirus concerns in the province. The photo below is from a 2018 Newfoundland sighting from the same region: none are available for the current report.

np-polarbearsighting-2018-6_large

There have been no reports of trouble but locals will have to stay vigilant to remain safe, which since 2008 has been a common concern from late winter to early spring. In 2012 in this area, a bear was shot after it destroyed homes and attacked livestock; another bear was shot the next week in the same area. And in 2016 and 2017, a bear had to be shot to protect residents. Bears at this time of year are in hunting mode, which is why my polar bear attack thriller novel, EATEN, is set in March.

Newfoundland Great Northern Peninsula map

Current sea ice conditions below.

There is a bit less ice than average off Newfoundland at the moment but plenty of ice thick enough to support polar bears (see chart below). The bears are in the area to feed off the abundant population of harp seals that are currently giving birth in the area. Young seals will be available prey for polar bears for the next 8 weeks or so. St. Anthony on the northern peninsula is marked on the map:

Newfoundland East daily stage of development 2020 March 17

See ice in Canada and the world at this date below.

Sea ice Canada 2020 March 17

NSIDC Masie chart:

masie_all_zoom_4km 2020 March 17 Day 77

NSIDC chart:

Sea ice extent 2020 March 17 NSIDC

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41 thoughts on “Polar bears prowling Newfoundland come on top of coronavirus fears

    • OBVIOUSLY, ….. they know when dinner is being served.

      And, their favorite, ……. “Seal pups on ice” are on the menu.

      The bears are in the area to feed off the abundant population of harp seals that are currently giving birth in the area.

  1. So, Dr. Crockford, if you had to choose between surrounded by polar bears or corona virus carriers, which would you choose?

      • As much as I fear and hate Polar Bears, they are not nearly as lethal as coronavirus. list of attacks Also, I’m allowed to protect myself from Polar Bears in a manner that would be totally unacceptable if applied to coronavirus carriers.

        • I presume, commieBob, you’re referring to protection via something that makes loud noises? As a geologist who worked often in big bear country I greatly appreciate S&W 44 mag protection.

          • I remember reading here several years ago that a tobacco tin with a few pebbles in it would, if rattled, chase polar bears away.
            Don’t remember hearing from anyone who tried it, though.

          • While you have an 88-98% chance of surviving the COVID-19 if surrounded by 10 infected individuals (age dependant), you have a 100% chance of becoming the next menu item if surrounded by 10 Polar Bears regardless of your age

          • Going back to Ron’s original question, I’d far rather be surrounded by hungry Polar Bears than a bunch of coronavirus carriers. Properly equipped, as surmised by Ron, and accompanied by a properly trained crew, I’m quite confident about handling the Polar Bears because I’ve done it.

          • People attacked by polar bears …

            I stand by my answer to Ron’s question. Keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole.

            Cars are lethal. Pedestrians hit by cars have a poor survival rate. I’d still rather walk across the street than be surrounded by coronavirus carriers.

          • “commieBob March 20, 2020 at 7:28 pm
            ..I stand by my answer to Ron’s question. Keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole.
            Cars are lethal. Pedestrians hit by cars have a poor survival rate. I’d still rather walk across the street than be surrounded by coronavirus carriers.”

            Commiebob, this is so unlike you?
            I fear you are unwell, or tired or ornery or something.
            You are arguing an impossible position.

            “Cars are lethal. Pedestrians hit by cars have a poor survival rate. I’d still rather walk across the street than be surrounded by coronavirus carriers.”
            • A) it is against the law, practically everywhere, to hit pedestrians with cars.
            • B) Drivers who hit pedestrians tend to find themselves sued, often personally sued.
            So, drivers exert themselves to extreme efforts to avoid the human buffoons who dash into traffic?

            We took boy scouts and their parents for an overnight trek near the Appalachian Trail; black bear country.

            One lad stepped in a pile of bear droppings.
            An adult opined to the scout that he ‘hoped’ the bear was a male bear. Besides getting ribbed by the other scouts, that kid slept very poorly that night. He also tried to wash his sneaker and foot in every stream we passed, a bad idea for hikers.

            That night after dinner, we collected anything that smelled at all like food and hung it high in a slender tree.
            We insisted on collecting toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, gum, frilly shampoos and soaps, candy bars, soda (one lad had one in his pack), cocoa, etc. etc…
            To say we belabored the point is correct.

            Yet as dawn slowly worked through the trees the next morning, us early risers gathered and started setting up the stoves to get coffee and breakfast ready. The food remains in the tree until we are ready to cook.

            As we were connecting gear, up walked a parent eating an apple…
            Slightly later, his son walked up eating a chocolate bar, he “forgot about”.
            No one wanted them along for any future hikes in bear country.

            Careless actions in bear country are the equivalent of dashing blindly into heavy traffic. Bears can quickly enforce Darwin.

            Another quick bear tale: we camped at Sequoia National Park.
            Campers are required to lock their foods and food like items in heavy iron containers, whenever they are not eating.
            Definitely enforced after breakfast and dinner. Breaking that rule gets campers evicted.

            My son snuck out of camp late one evening (likely several). He went down to a phone booth at the station; and bought pop tarts from the candy machine.
            One night, a grizzly walked up the path that passed within feet of the phone.

            My son, frisbee threw his pop tarts away from him and the bear as surreptitiously as possible. Which to a bear is probably not surreptitious at all.
            He also stopped making any noise and froze; which may not have been the best idea as the girl he was talking to started to get upset and making lots of noise. From one danger to another…

            After the bear passed by and headed up the road, (towards the campsites), my son looked for, found and ate his pop tarts. He wasn’t about to carry them back to camp following the bear.

            One of the nights, I heard one of the food containers ring like a giant brass gong! and a crash as the container fell back into place. A bear tried a metal container just up the road from us. I can’t imagine anyone was still asleep in that campsite.

            Park rangers warned us about leaving food or coolers in the cars/trucks to be seen or smelled. Apparently it was getting common for bears to walk along vehicles and ‘pop’ or ‘smash’ windows to remove possible food holders.

            Experienced Inuit hunters would not want to be surrounded by hungry polar bears. One hungry polar bear is too many.

        • Sounds like something someone would state that never faced down any bear, let alone the pinnacle of predators polar bear.

          Any encounter with a hungry or territorial bear is unpleasant.
          Interactive bear encounters especially so as bears tend to believe a) you are food; b) you are blocking access to their food.
          There is a c) which involves mother bears ticked about their cubs being on the other side of you. Don’t choose c)! Mother bears always win against people.

          One should be especially concerned about facing said predator pinnacle, even with a firearm.
          Keep in mind .44 magnums at fifty yards will likely only tick a polar bear off.
          A shot to the heart may only slow the bear as it covers that fifty yards within seconds.
          A shot at the head is likely to bounce off the sloped skull, leaving a ticked off polar bear with a headache it likely blames on you.

          Now that Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate and an antibiotic have been tested and proven to conquer COVID-19. The choice is easy.

          • 5 out of 6 pedestrian road deaths are the pedestrian’s fault. Over half of the dead pedestrians were drunk. Trains kill 3 X as many per passenger mile as road transport. Bob, you’re still failing to adjust for mileage.

          • 1 – If you’re going to shoot a Polar Bear, you better leave powder burns. You’ll probably end up doing paper work for the rest of your life anyway.

            2 – Usually the sound of a rifle shot will drive them away.

            3 – Some folks, whose organization will go unnamed, creased a stubborn Polar Bear’s bum and it left in a very cranky mood. It beat up on a couple of pieces of equipment on it’s way out of camp. The bear had found something tasty in the burn pit. The crew told the wildlife tech that they had only used their guns to make noise. His comment when he told me about the incident was something like, “Strange, they don’t usually leave that easy after they had a taste of food.”

            4 – The dangerous Polar Bears are the young ones that don’t have previous experience with humans. The older ones are more likely to avoid humans.

            5 – I’ve had Polar Bear safety training from Ian Stirling’s people. They would tranquilize Polar Bears and tag them. As far as I know, none of the wildlife techs was ever hurt.

            6 – Yes, I have come face to face with Polar Bears in the wild, more than once. I was never unarmed and I was never alone.

          • Polar Bears and Grizzly (brown) Bears are extremely dangerous and will track you down and eat you.

            Black Bears don’t like humans as food, ….. but like humans for their food (after they find human garbage). If you encounter a Black Bear in the woods, it will probably be more scared than you are.

            Grizzly Bears like Black Bears, …… but Black Bears can climb trees and Grizzly Bears can‘t. 😊

        • we could do with some of those poleybears downunder
          to help enforce idiots from roaming round under supposed isolation
          roos just arent up to the task;-))

  2. I’m challenging the orange line showing mean extent 1981-2010. Without even checking, I’d bet that “mean” would be high. Shove it back along the ice sine wave cycle, and you’d see a new normal. Here’s my motto: “Don’t accept any average/mean as real; find the wave that shows nature’s way, a cycle.”

    Everyone knows how to make GIFs these days. Climate maps should be presented as GIFs of waves, not ridgid lines.

    Someone should go up there with drones and make a shock video of the bears ripping apart baby seals with the seal mothers watching, screaming, screaming. Show at least 20 carnage attacks. I’d bet they would also see scenes of male polar bears doing the same thing to polar bear cubs/adolescents.

  3. What’s happened to Griff? He still owes Dr Susan Crockford an abject apology for libelling her..

  4. Off-topic, but has anyone noticed that most of the links in Anthony’s item on covid-19 and chloroquine have been barred by Google as ‘breach of terms of service’?

  5. ‘Bears at this time of year are in hunting mode, which is why my polar bear attack thriller novel, EATEN, is set in March.’

    Ha! You beat me too it – I was thinking of doing a killer bear novel (I publish stuff like that under a pen name).

    I’ve always said a polar bear is one of the last animals you’d want to run into in the wild.

  6. Not surprising that there are polar bears in Newfoundland, near the southern edge of the sea ice. They probably walked across from Labrador looking for seals in open water near the shore, then they will move back north as more ice melts and more seals arrive along the coast.

  7. having worked in the arctic islands in the 1970’s on geological field parties and drilling sites as well I can attest that polar bears are opportunistic feeders and do congregate in areas where there is abundant prey. they are certainly the most dangerous bear that we know when we encroach on their territory. but usually they are after their favorite prey in the area unless we get in there way. not unusual to see them move into an area where food is plentiful.

  8. Many years ago I visited the Alaska Zoo, where they were caring for two bear cubs; one Polar, one Brown. Very cute playing together in the same outdoor pen. When asked if they would be kept together into adulthood, the keeper said “Oh, no. The Polar would overcome and kill the Brown.”
    Very impressive if you’ve ever seen an adult male Brown.

    • > “Oh, no. The Polar would overcome and kill the Brown.”

      Racist bastard! I hope the population replacement act from UN will also cover white bears.

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