Less than usual ice conditions off Labrador have meant very few polar bear sightings

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on April 14, 2021 | 

I’ve been wondering ever since last year why reports of polar bears onshore in Labrador especially and also the north coast of Newfoundland, have been virtually non-existent. This year there has been little ice off Newfoundland except for the Northern Peninsula but relatively abundant ice off the south coast of Labrador.

Yesterday, Canadian Ranger and polar bear guard Jefferey Keefe of Black Tickle (which is on an island off the Labrador coast) said on a CBC radio interview (13 April 2021) that while in 2019 they had 72 sightings around the community over the season, last year they had 7 and so far this year they have had only 2 sets of tracks – but no actual sightings of bears. He estimated the average number of sightings per year is about 20, and that he had talked to his colleagues in Makkovik (north of Rigolet on the map below) and their experience is similar. It appears that numbers are down throughout southern Labrador, although one bear was seen in Charlottetown last week (south of Black Tickle).

Keefe said that the sea has been very rough around the island this year, effectively breaking up the young sea ice almost as soon as it forms. They have no ice in their harbour right now, which is unusual. He thinks this lack of nearshore ice is keeping the bears further out on the pack ice: the bears are still out there but just taking different routes this year. Given the current ice conditions locally, he’s not really expecting any more visits this season.

Below is a detailed ice chart of the region from this year: Black Tickle is south of Cartwright, which is marked on the chart.

In 2019, I kept track of published polar bear sightings in Labrador, not all of which were in Black Tickle. I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss any (Crockford 2020), but there was nowhere near 72 reports overall, let alone 72 just in Black Tickle. See here (mid-Feb); here (late Feb); here (mid-April)here (late May).

However, I was also pretty sure that every single sighting wasn’t making the news, which this information confirms. A total of 72 sightings in 2019 in Black Tickle alone is impressive! In Newfoundland, there were an impressive number of sightings in 2017.

The ice came early to Labrador in 2019 and continued to be be relatively heavy throughout the spring. There was lighter ice in 2020 but not as late and light as this year. From the comments of Sgt. Keefe, it seems the wind and sea conditions very close to shore have had more of an impact on potential polar bear visits in southern Labrador than the ice conditions well offshore. Although a population collapse would also explain the dramatic decline in sightings, there is no evidence I’ve heard about that Davis Strait numbers are way down, as some have predicted.

Listen to the whole thing at 13:30-18:00 on the tape.

Crockford, S.J. 2020. State of the Polar Bear Report 2019. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 39, London. PDF here.

5 9 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ed Zuiderwijk
April 15, 2021 2:19 pm

If few sightings were caused by population collapse you would expect that if there is a sighting the bear or bears concerned look starved or ill or both. If instead the animals look well-fed and in good shape, then the few sightings are more likely due to the bears going elsewhere for whatever reason.

Bruce Cobb
April 15, 2021 2:35 pm

The bears are under lockdown.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
April 15, 2021 2:40 pm

What happened with the Nenana ice break up?

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
April 15, 2021 4:14 pm

“The bears are under lockdown.”

I didn’t know polar bears could get the coronavirus. I learn something new every day.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
April 15, 2021 5:46 pm

Humour …

Gerry, England
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
April 16, 2021 6:24 am

Teach them not to wear masks, eh.

Steve Z
Reply to  Gerry, England
April 16, 2021 7:59 am

Tell the polar bears to wear masks, and save the baby seals! /sarc

Ron Long
April 15, 2021 3:49 pm

On offshore pack ice is a good place for these apex predators. Aren’t some of them collared with a transmitter?

Tom in Toronto
April 15, 2021 5:27 pm

Less polar bears mean better seal-eating for the toothed whales and sharks.
What? Whales and sharks aren’t cute and cuddly enough for you?
Nature will take care of itself as long as we keep the actual pollutants/toxins to a minimum and avoid over-exploiting living resources. Worry about increasing the standard of living (and thus extending the lives) of all the people living in energy poverty, instead.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom in Toronto
April 15, 2021 6:39 pm

Just a random thought about perspective / relevance to humankind in general –

how many of the world’s 7.9 billion people have to make provisions in their daily lives for polar bear encounter possibilities?

(say, when putting out the garbage bins, or trekking to the river to wash their clothes, or scavenging the local landfill for anything usable?)

Reply to  Mr.
April 15, 2021 7:11 pm

They have a huge relevance to humankind in general. They’re the canary in the coal mine for climate bedwetters. I’m surprised griff hasb’t been on here and told us how he knows more about polar bears than Susan Crockford and other such dimwittery. That fact that they’ve been growing in population (polar bears that is, we might have reached peak climate bedwetters) can’t slow down these nincompoops. They can always lie about it.

April 16, 2021 12:39 am

Light ice off Labrador (which affects seals too) has happened frequently in the last decade.

And the ice around Svalbard and Nova Zemlya and in the Barents is already breaking up and retreating this year.

The arctic ice is in trouble and it is affecting polar bears.

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 6:41 am

The Polar Bears are doing good in the Arctic, you need to stop making false statements since you didn’t present any evidence that Polar Bears are in decline.

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 7:26 am

How does sea ice affect polar bears other than in your phantasy ? 😀
They don’t eat it 😀

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 7:45 pm

About the same as 2007 yesterday griff. You think people can’t find the NSIDC site with one click, or something?


April 16, 2021 12:46 am

Additional: it seems that low ice began as occasional anomalies of ice failure in 1958 and 1969 but has now escalated to ice shortages in 2010, 2011, 2017, and 2021, with 2021 having a record low.

Here’s an informative article:
Harp seal pups dying on Québec beach amid record-low sea ice (nationalgeographic.com)

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 7:25 am

You know, that arctic ice extend doesn’t shrink day by day now, but is even in parts increasing ? 😀
Show us your data of record low, there aren’t 😀

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 8:02 am

Iceland and Greenland linked by icebridge, record low sea ice ?? 😀


Climate believer
Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 10:46 am


“ice failure”… there’s only one failure round here, and it ain’t the ice.

It is so obvious that you repeat the first thing that you come across on the internet that ticks your little bias boxes.

You might want to look at 2017 again, and ask why the Canadian Coast Guard sent their icebreaker, the CCGS Amundsen, to provide ice escort services and conduct search and rescue operations along Newfoundland’s northeast coast.

There are over 7 million Harp seals in that part of the world alone, they are not an endangered species, and that is a typical National Geographic heart strings article about cute cuddly things being destroyed by humans, give me a break.

Any idea what effect that size population is having on cod stocks? no, because cod aren’t cuddly.

Reply to  griff
April 16, 2021 7:49 pm

Oh the good old days when you were just a buffoon, and now you’re a lying buffoon.

Patrick MJD
April 16, 2021 1:25 am

Can we get comment from polar bear expert Griff?

Reply to  Patrick MJD
April 16, 2021 5:22 am

Griff is chained to a polar bear…to save them.

Reply to  Derg
April 16, 2021 9:37 am

Griff stands for more and thicker ice, that will kiII, not save polar bears as we all, beside griff, know.

Last edited 1 year ago by Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
April 16, 2021 11:32 am

Please let us get back to focusing on the topic, he isn’t the topic.

Reply to  Sunsettommy
April 17, 2021 1:43 pm

There are people passing by who believe the shit he spouts about Arctic Ice and want to believe it, so they move on believing that this is indeed a “climate denier” site, to use their nonsensical version of the English language. As Eric Worrall pointed out the other day, the climate liars must be rebutted at all times.

…. and, might I add:

April 16th 2021 13.831 million Km^2
April 16th 2007 13.818 million Km^2

Simple click on “show all years”, shows that the above was a lie:


April 16, 2021 5:33 am

Why do we see “cute” pics of momma-bear & her vulnerable little cubs, and not mealtime when they’re tearing bloody guts out of a previously cute but now butchered little seal?

Last edited 1 year ago by beng135
Jackie Pratt
April 16, 2021 6:00 pm

I don’t see them, therefore they are dead….

Perfect logic

%d bloggers like this: