First polar bear alert report for Churchill an astonishing seven weeks later than last year

From Dr. Susan Crockford’s Polar Bear Science

Posted on September 1, 2020 | 

First polar bear alert report for Churchill an astonishing seven weeks later than last year

The first report of the Polar Bear Alert Program in Churchill, Manitoba was released today (1 September), a full seven weeks later than last year due to many bears remaining on the Western Hudson Bay ice much later than they have done in the past.

2020 Aug 31 - Polar Bear Stats_week 1 jpeg

As I mentioned previously, as long as I’ve been collecting these published reports (2015), there has not been a first report of the season issued later than the second week in July, so this year is really unusual and I suspect similar to the 1980s.

I thought it possible that this was a Covid-related delay getting conservation officers to Churchill but as you’ll see above, that appears not to be the case: there simply have been not enough serious problems with bears in Churchill to warrant sending officers out before last week. No information on the general condition of bears was included this year, as it has been in other years (see below).  Activity this last week in August 2020 was similar to the first week in July 2018.

Polar bear Cape East 0 Wakusp NP _24 Aug 2020 earlier

WEEK 1 2020 VS WEEK 6 2019

2019 week 1 report for 2nd week of July:

Churchill problem bears_week 1_2019 July 8-14



2018 Bear Stats July 9 week 1 jpeg


Churchill PB reports_week 1_ July 10-16_July 2017


2016 July 11_17_bears off the ice


2015 July 5_12 week 1

52 thoughts on “First polar bear alert report for Churchill an astonishing seven weeks later than last year

  1. Keep up the good work Susan

    When I point to your work the employees of Trudeau point to how you aren’t a polar bear scientist and do everything possible to delegitimize you. I guess they learn from Trudeau how to handle uppity women who don’t know their place.

    When pushed they finally resorted to pushing a paper by a “proper” scientist, one who has now carefully predicted the end of the bears to be in 2100, long after he is gone.

    You see, everyone can learn.

    “Don’t make predictions set within your lifetime.”


  2. The other very unusual thing this year is the temperature north of 80. Almost always, the temperature tracks very close to the average during melt season. Right now, the temperature has left the average and stayed above average for around a month. link WUWT?

    I haven’t looked at the record for all the years, but I haven’t found a similar case yet. I wonder if it’s some kind of data processing error or something like that. I always thought the thing that kept the temperature so average was the energy involved in melting ice. Checking 2012, a year of record low ice, the temperature wasn’t like this. Same for 2007.

    • For the last few years, freeze-up has come about the same time as it did in the 1980s, so that bears were leaving for the ice the first or second week of November. A ‘late’ season would see the bears unable to leave until the first week or so of December (as happened in 1983 and 2016). Some details of when bears came off the ice and went back out is here:

      • Susan, I note the “28 polar bears to date” on the announcement. This suggests there were known earlier occurrences. Is it possible that the reporting system is to blame this year, rather than a colder climate?

    • By the way, polar bears eat a lot but not often. They can go for months without food. The one month difference between july and august may not have a feeding interpretation. Just a thought.

      “During certain times of the year and under certain conditions the polar bear can survive for up to 8 months without eating any food when the seasons change and their prey migrate”.

  3. Someone emailed me to ask if this (late first report) was good news or bad, so I thought I’d repeat my answer here.

    Until we get some kind of assessment of the condition of bears on the ground, we won’t know for sure. Most of the photos of the bears spotted so far are in good condition, which is good news, but I’m not sure that the late dates coming ashore have anything to do with that.

    Polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher insists that bears keep feeding as long as they are out on the ice but he has no solid evidence that this is true (only some hard-to-interpret data from lipid analysis that he has recently been waving around Twitter).

    I think the bears just had a good spring feeding season and stayed on the ice rather than heading to shore. Lying around out on the ice doesn’t use any more energy than lying around onshore – and there are no people to bother you.

    I had a comment emailed to me from a local living along the coast in early August who said he watched an ice floe with a big male lounging on it with about 300 seals all around him: the bear and the seals totally ignored each other. Adult seals are *very* hard to catch in the summer, even when there is ice.

    • Dr. Crockford, I notice that the report for the week shows 4 bears (line item 1), but the cumulative total is 28 (line item 2). Would this suggest there are earlier reports that are not currently available?

      • DJ Hawkins,

        That could well be true. As I pointed out, the gov’t of Manitoba did not send out their conservation officers for the Alert program until the last week in August and tracking data made public by PB researchers showed a good number of bears were still on the ice into August (see previous posts). So it is clear that not all bears were off the ice until the end of August, which is unusual. Maybe RCMP was chasing off a few problem bears early in the season before the Alert officers arrived, it’s hard to tell. Or maybe locals did it themselves. Maybe someone from the community will speak up in the next few weeks.

  4. Hudson Bay had what is in current times an exceptionally good winter for the ice (though it had gone by mid August).

    The current state of Hudson Bay bears is also an anomaly in current times.

    and once again this article seeks to divert from the exceptional retreat of the ice – still 2nd lowest for date and already below most minimums in the record – on all fronts except the Beufort Sea.

    Tell me how the ice state from W Alaska round thru to Svalbard is in any way good for the bears?

      • Coeur de Lion September 3, 2020 at 1:26 am
        Still not too late to take my £100 bet, Griff? Today 4.258mkm2 and say two weeks to go?

        A bet you are guaranteed to lose! You eventually said which measure you were basing your wager on, NSIDC Charctic, which is a 5 day trailing mean. Unfortunately for your wager the daily NSIDC value is 4.004 million km^2 so in 5 days time you will have lost your bet unless there is a very unusual increase in extent (for the next week the average over the last 10 years is a loss). How many people have taken your bet?

    • Once again griff attempts to divert attention from the FACT that that current sea ice levels are in the top 5-10% of the last 10,0000 years

      Yep, FAR more sea ice than for most of the last 10,000 years, hey griff.

      4 Wadhams…. One heck of a lot of sea ice, wouldn’t you agree, griff

      For most of the first 8000-9000 year of the Holocene there was far less sea ice, but Polar Bear are still here.

      Sea ice left Svalbard this year around 1st August

      There was also no sea ice on the shores of Svalbard on 1st August in the following years..

      1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2018..

      also in 1898, 1930, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939.

      Again, griff shown to be pathetically and willfully UN-INFORMED..

      ….and is looking a period in years that is about equal to hi IQ

      Unfortunately, the RECOVERY from the EXTREME HIGH levels of the late 1970s seems to have stalled.

      • Not uninformed, disruptive. In fact his posts have been far more cogent of late, but still off topic logical fallacies intended to derail the conversation.

        @Griff – still getting checks from Greenpeace for these posts?

    • And of course in 1922, there was no sea ice around Svalbard even in WINTER.

      Poor intellectually deprives (or is that depraved,) griff…

      … he is in DENIAL that the planet is actually in a cooler period compared to the last 10,0000 years

      He is a classic case of a CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER

      • fred250 September 3, 2020 at 2:04 am
        And of course in 1922, there was no sea ice around Svalbard even in WINTER.

        And the same year Wrangel Island was completely inaccessible due to being completely surrounded by thick ice all year.

        • So what. Sea ice varies where and how much season by season

          Current levels are still FAR HIGHER than for most of the last 10,000 years.

          The only thing unusual was the extreme amounts of sea ice in the late 1970s.

          But then, it was at the end of a strong cooling period since the 1940s.

          • fred250 September 3, 2020 at 4:56 am
            So what. Sea ice varies where and how much season by season

            Exactly my point, and why your continual focussing on Svalbard in 1922 tells us nothing about the state of the arctic then.

    • Even in griff’s piddlingly short time….


      Canadian Arctic, above 2008,2010, 2011, 2015, 2016

      Beaufort above EVERY year back to 2006 except 2013, 2014

      Chukchi above 2007, 2008,2009, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019.

      Greenland Sea, above 2006, 2008,2010,2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.

      Poor griff. he is fantasising, yet again

      SOOOOO MUCH sea ice up there compared to the last 10,000 years. !!

    • All the ice statistics aside, as a casual observer, I don’t see how she “diverted” from the “exceptional retreat of the ice.” She didn’t bring up the quality of the ice at all. YOU did.

      Dr. Crockford simply pointed out that the bears have not come in nearly as early as they have in recent years. That’s it.

      Now, if you want to bring that up as to how it applies to their behavior…it seems to me that one or two things can be surmised from her blog. First (and hopefully not true) is that some number of bears have drowned or starved to death. The second possibility is that sea ice extant doesn’t impact the bear population as much as people think it does.

      Just as a casual observer with no skin in the game…

    • Griff,

      Thank you for pointing out that Hudson Bay sea ice has not been following the pattern of the rest of the Arctic as it is presumed to do by all polar bear and sea ice experts.

      I understand that you are concerned about sea ice retreat in the rest of the Arctic but that was not the point of my essay. Therefore, the fact that I did not include a discussion about the rest of the Arctic is a red herring.

      Why don’t you write a post that explains why, contrary to expectations, Hudson Bay sea ice has not been following the pattern seen in the rest of the Arctic over the last five years or so, especially since it is so far south? I’m sure we would all love to see your analysis.

      You could perhaps interview Andrew Derocher and find out why he has not published the data he has collected over the last 25 years on Western Hudson Bay polar bear weights and cub survival, even though he and his colleagues keep insisting this data is the main evidence that supports their claim that WH bears are being harmed by lack of sea ice?

  5. But what does this mean? That there is still ice that they are on? Surely not, it must have melted as usual, the sea ice extent wasnt that large this year.

  6. ps that current Hudson Bay sea ice area is above every year back to 2006 except 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

  7. As far as I can tell the Port of Churchill is still closed. David Suzuki claimed that it would become a major port due to global warming. Omnitrack bought it on that speculation and lost their shirt.
    It has been a total failure since day one. Too much ice.

    • Yes, possibly they should ask Suzuki and Gore for a refund, both are quite rich (and consuming far above their fair share of resources and creating far more CO2 than most).
      In fact, the rail line to churchill washed out last year and no one is rushing to rebuild it because the port is clearly not going to become a viable thing, too bad it isn’t

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