Polar bear research on hold in Western Hudson Bay due to COVID-19 restrictions

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on October 23, 2020

After spring polar bear research was cancelled in Western Hudson Bay (and pretty much everywhere else) this year because of Covid 19 concerns, it now transpires that fall research is out as well. Travel restrictions implemented by government departments and university administrations (not the health department) apparently mean fall programs to assess the health and status of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay have been put on hold.

Triplet litter of polar bear cubs spotted in Wakusp National Park, Western Hudson Bay. 23 October 2020. Courtesy Explore.org.

This story from CTV News (23 October 2020), my bold:

Federal polar bear research near Churchill has been put on hold for the first time since 1980 because of restrictions on travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Nick Lunn, an Alberta research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, travels to northern Manitoba every year in September to conduct polar bear monitoring programs.

Lunn’s work involves sedating more than 100 bears so measurements and other biological samples can be taken.

“Long-term data sets can handle a missed year in the time series more easily than short-term data sets,” he said in an email from Edmonton.

“Techniques in analysis have advanced so much over the past 30 to 40 years that there are now ways to deal with gaps for certain types of questions. So while (it’s) disappointing to miss fall 2020, it won’t be the end of the world for the long-term nature and value of the program.”

That said, it doesn’t mean the missed data is inconsequential. “Without knowing what was missed, it is not possible to assess the significance,” he said.

For example, one of the first strong signals that polar bear health was linked to climate change came from a single year of data in 1992. That year the bears weighed significantly more than usual, and researchers were able to link that event with the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

The eruption launched so much particulate matter into the atmosphere that it blocked sunlight, temporarily cooling the Arctic in the spring of 1992. As a result, among other things, there was a later breakup of the sea ice in western Hudson Bay that year – and consequently better-fed, fatter polar bears.

If there had been no data collection in 1992, this specific event and link might have been missed, Lunn said.

As researchers look to better understand the effects of climate change on these animals, they are expanding their understanding of what influences the bears’ health.

“We know that (sea ice) breakup was later this year than last, so we would have expected bears to be in better condition this year, which hopefully translates into (more and bigger) cubs in the spring. Unfortunately, we won’t know how much better condition they may have been in,” Lunn said.

…While provincial health officials allowed an exemption to the travel ban for research and tourism, many universities and government institutions have opted for more stringent restrictions internally. Thus, Lunn and his colleagues at Environment and Climate Change Canada have been grounded.”

Andrew Derocher (University of Aberta), whose spring program was halted earlier this year for the same reason, saw this as a disaster for the climate change narrative:

“Losing the monitoring conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada this year was a huge loss to polar bear science and to Arctic monitoring on a global scale. The western Hudson Bay population is the baseline study from which we have learned about how climate change affects polar bears,” he said.

“Other polar bear populations have far less data and far less insight into the mechanisms of change brought by warming.

Similar story here.

Derocher may be crying foul to the press but I expect he and Lund are secretly happy there will be no data this year to document how well the polar bears have been doing, despite this being the second-lowest summer ice season for the Arctic since 1979. As Lunn points out, breakup was very late this year and bears came off the ice in very good condition but fails to mention there was no spectacular volcanic eruption to blame this on as there was in 1992.

No data for 2020 will mean fewer questions about the obvious contradictions between the data and claims of climate change victimhood for WHB polar bears. Lunn will be free to use his ‘techniques in data analysis‘ to fill in the gap in a way that does not spoil the climate change narrative of doom he and his colleagues have spent decades developing. How very convenient.

Ironically perhaps, today a polar bear female with a litter of triplet cubs – falsely claimed to be unheard of a few years ago – was spotted along the shore of Wakusp National Park just south of Churchill. See the photo above and video below. One of the cubs is noticeably larger than the others but all are in good condition; this may be the same triplet litter spotted in September in the same area or another, it’s not possible to say:

Virtually all bears spotted with the automated cameras in Wakusp have been in excellent condition and Churchill has had what may be a record-breaking slow season for problem bears this year.

This story also highlights, perhaps inadvertently, that it was not documented harm to bears from lack of summer sea ice that gave Ian Stirling and colleagues Lunn and Derocher the ammunition they needed for their climate-change-is-killing-polar-bears narrative but the exact opposite. In other words, they concluded that if the 1992 late breakup of sea ice resulting in a significant improvement in the bears’ condition, the cause of the documented 1980s decline in survival compared to the 1970s was probably poor summer ice conditions, even though none of the sea ice data would have supported that conclusion.

A change in winter conditions in 1992 for WH bears and/or seals made much better sense in explaining their 1980s survival data but that didn’t fit the newly-developing ‘global warming’ narrative. And anyway, that explanation couldn’t be supported with data because there were none – no one was doing research on winter conditions in Hudson Bay in the 70s and 80s, which is still true today.

As I’ve pointed out previously, Stirling had been struggling in the 1990s to explain why Western Hudson Bay polar bears had been doing so poorly in the 1980s  but his 1993 a shift to new ‘climate change’ focus (Stirling and Derocher 1993) gave him a way of moving past a phenomenon he couldn’t explain. I discuss this in more detail in my book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

All we can do is hope that even without data from 2020, the obvious good health and survival of the bears this year will speak volumes.


Stirling and Derocher 1993. Possible impacts of climatic warming on polar bears. Arctic 46(3):240-245. Open access https://arctic.journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/article/view/1348

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October 24, 2020 6:16 pm

Three cubs? If I remember correctly, 2 is normal with usually only 1 surviving past 18 months. Sounds like pretty good reproductive conditions for such an endangered species. If one sample is historically enough for a biologist to judge the health of an entire population, I suppose that they’re pretty well saved. If not, we can ship them some fat climate hystericals next year. Not as good as seal or salmon, but nutritious if delivered fresh and in quantity.

Reply to  d
October 24, 2020 6:42 pm

Polar bears have between one and four cubs. Two seems to be the norm.

The claim was that no triplets had been observed since 1996. Obviously that was supposed to prove that polar bears were in dire straits.

I have seen Eskimos working on Dr. Stirling’s field research. I’m guessing that the local population in the north is well qualified to gather data. If the southerners want data, they can have data. It seems to me that Dr. Crockford is right. Some folks would just as soon not have inconvenient data.

Reply to  commieBob
October 25, 2020 11:55 am

Yep, my first thought when I saw the title. Activist pseudo-scientists soon lose interest in data collection when it shows inconvenient truths.

That and persistently failing to archive and release data to ensure no one can check their claims or challenge their conclusions.

October 24, 2020 6:27 pm

“about how climate change affects polar bears”

Is Derocher talking about climate change or fake climate change. Why can’t these “academics” be more specific? I suppose it’s OK to be a crap scientist and waste your life as long as you get paid.

very old white guy
Reply to  philincalifornia
October 25, 2020 4:39 am

and they will continue to get paid as they “work” for the government.

Patrick MJD
October 24, 2020 6:37 pm

Low ice and garbage trucks = better survival of cubs?

Robert of Texas
October 24, 2020 6:48 pm

Wow, so one data point (Spring 1992) allows them to draw conclusions? Correlations are awesome when you only need a single data point. This must be a part of statistics I missed or slept through.

Just make sure to parachute in more Cokes…they can’t live without that. Oh, and wood for their little camp fires.

“better understand the effects of climate change”… Ha! How about first they understand climate change period. As in the geologic record. The bears survived just fine. The only dangers they face now is uncontrolled hunting (now controlled) and idiot “scientists” (uncontrolled) constantly bothering them.

Rich Davis
October 24, 2020 7:33 pm

The plan is that by next year we’ll all be living under socialist totalitarian states, so there won’t be any further need to make up data. In the meantime they’ll just model the data and it will be worse than they thought as always.

Gary Pearse
October 24, 2020 7:58 pm

Perhaps this is a great opportunity for another competing team of biologists to check out the status of the bears. Crowd sourcing and possibly a few large donations to cover a broad survey and numbers count to help the Arctic Climate Wroughters with their data. They are the only group that seems to have a monopoly on this sector of Disastrous Anthropo Warming. They need some competition because a job with a political agenda is no job at all.

October 24, 2020 8:06 pm

Clearly that is not a photo from 23 October 2020 Hudson Bay because Griff told me there was no Ice and the polar bears are starving and in dire straits.

Loren C Wilson
October 24, 2020 8:11 pm

They need to cancel or they will find too many healthy polar bears.

Tom Abbott
October 24, 2020 8:40 pm

The grocery store clerk can stock the grocery store shelves during the Wuhan virus pandemic, but polar bear scientists can’t do their job because of the virus.

Does this make sense? Polar Bear scientists can wear masks and can social distance, can’t they?

Trump says: Get to work! Stop being afraid.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
October 24, 2020 10:49 pm

They should be putting masks on the PBs..

…. wouldn’t want them catching the CV.

October 24, 2020 8:59 pm

If ever there was a place that was safe from the Covid-19 virus, it was the Arctic, surrounded by pristine ice, snow and no people. The main danger to these researchers would have come from very annoyed Polar Bears who have not been left alone for decades. The news of the recent health and prosperity of Polar bears may have proved too much for some government departments and university administrations and further investigations in Hudson Bay have had to have been put on ice.

Stephen Skinner
October 25, 2020 2:17 am

““Techniques in analysis have advanced so much over the past 30 to 40 years that there are now ways to deal with gaps for certain types of questions. ”
Yeah, right. It’s called lying.

very old white guy
October 25, 2020 4:37 am

Everybody is officially terminally stupid. Oh well, I guess the bears are indifferent.

October 25, 2020 5:37 am

They might be able to adapt the “tree counting algorithm” developed to count the trees in sub-Saharan Africa using AI and HD terrestrial satellite pictures. The only issue I see is white on white might be a little tough. Additionally clumps of ice might also be interpreted as a bear. Or they could do an IR sweep across an area and pick up the bears.

But what I would suggest is map out a 10×10 km square, count the bears and extrapolate it over the tens of thousands of km2 of bear habitat and claim an accuracy of a hundredth of a bear. Kind of like how they do arctic temperatures.

October 25, 2020 7:41 am

Has Hudson Bat started freezing yet? No? Then we know the bears are having a bad year.

Meanwhile there is still open ocean on the Russian side of the arctic, well above 80 degrees north. You can’t pretend that’s not exceptional, nor that it has no effect on the bear population.

Reply to  griff
October 25, 2020 9:05 am

grope sez:
You can’t pretend that’s not exceptional, nor that it has no effect on the bear population.

Agree — it does seem to effect the bear population. It apparently increases the population according to the numbers.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  griff
October 25, 2020 10:12 am

Every time you speak you reveal your religious bias even more.
You have nothing but you insist that less ice MUST mean fewer polar bears, because that is axiomatic to your belief structure.
The cognitive dissonance every time someone publishes good news about bear health and numbers just shatters your sense of self.

Why not answer the questions. Ice expands and contracts, that is normal.
But your religion is that ice decreasing is bad for the bears, this clearly seems incorrect.

Instead of consuming your days wondering whether ice change is due to humans (currently unprovable) why not investigate actual bear status

Focus on the positive
Even tho it destroys your religion

Reply to  griff
October 25, 2020 10:55 am

What ever you pretend, be sure, it’s wrong.
Why ?
You are not able to learn, among other things, polarbear need no ice to survive, they don’t eat ist. :|| (period)

Reply to  griff
October 25, 2020 12:25 pm

Since you are so concerned about polar bears, griff, you should be very thankful that the Arctic isn’t completely ice-free now. That was supposed to happen by 2013, or 2014, or 2015, or 2016, or 2018, but it obviously has not.

Reply to  griff
October 25, 2020 12:58 pm

Hudson B really doesn’t usually start to seriously freeze up for another two weeks … see this Canadian Ice Service graph https://iceweb1.cis.ec.gc.ca/Prod/page3.xhtml
And likely there is freezing along the shore … it was -17 C in Calgary this morning and I saw Churchill at – 7 yesterday afternoon … again see this map showing lots of -9 & -8 C temps in northern Hud Bay https://maps.darksky.net/@temperature,61.669,-90.132,5 in the middle of the afternoon.

Churchill Manitoba -8 to – 12 C for the nighttime lows for the next week so yes lots of shoreline freezing at those temperatures https://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/mb-42_metric_e.html

Bruce Cobb
October 25, 2020 8:16 am

This of course is welcome news to the Poly Bears, who are planning a big Coke (coca cola) keg party in celebration as we speak.

October 25, 2020 12:45 pm

So I have a couple questions.
First, how many people are really needed to do these surveys? A dozen? Less? I’d be willing to bet you could put all of the, through quarantine, and still be good to go in time for the season. In fact, I would go further, and bet that they could work together all season without fear of an infection, nor any kind of outbreak. So really, none of them could come up with a plan for this super-important research? I call shenanigans, I think somebody wants to keep warm this winter.

October 26, 2020 6:20 pm

Can Polar Bears get COVID-19 ?

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