Wandering polar bears are the new starving polar bears, falsely blamed on climate change

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on May 15, 2021 | 

Back in 2017, we famously had National Geographic falsely blaming a starving polar bear on climate change but since then we have been inundated (relatively speaking) with stories of ‘wandering’ bears sighted far from Arctic coastlines. These wandering bears are oddities to be sure but are not in any way an indicator of melting Arctic sea ice or lost habitat, as The Times (UK) has claimed in this latest example (Polar bear treks 1,500 miles south as Arctic hunting zone melts away).

Similar to three other recent examples, from 2019 – in Alaska in winter, in Chukotka in early spring, and Siberia in late spring – this month’s example cannot rationally be blamed on lack of sea ice. This year’s bear took at least eight weeks to travel from the Lena River Delta area of the Laptev Sea to a small village in Yakusk, Russia where it was captured on 11 May, shown below on the map of the route it took included in the story at The Daily Mail (11 May).

From The Daily Mail, 11 May.

The bear was sighted on a number of occasions along its long way south and apparently survived by eating food left outside for dogs. It was on the thin side and hungry by the time it was caught but definitely not emaciated. Apparently, it had a number of confrontations with local dogs in Yakutsk and rather terrified the locals in the village of Dzhebariki-Khaya when it appeared because it was acting aggressively.

According to the Daily Mail account (which has lots of photos and a video):

A remarkable polar bear was finally in captivity tonight after walking a record 675 miles from its Arctic Ocean habitat.

After a six-week effort, authorities eventually caught the beast, which appeared furious that its marathon adventure had come to an end.

In a video, the bear is seen angrily shaking its cramped cage.  

The bear’s capture came after it ventured into a remote Russian village yesterday, causing panic among the locals.   

Hunters kept the bear at bay for around eight hours after it suddenly appeared in the coal-mining village of Dzhebariki-Khaya. Wildlife specialists flew in by helicopter from regional capital Yakutsk to lure the animal into a cage using seal fat as a bait.

…The bear is already famous for its epic travel adventure – but experts are unsure what made it embark on this odyssey.The bear’s capture came a day after it appeared in Dzhebariki-Khaya.

The time-line provided means the bear had to have left the Arctic coast near the Lena River Delta sometime in mid-March or even earlier. See close-up map of the area below.

[As a side note, I was in Krasnoyarsk shown on the map above during the summer of 2014: it’s an astonishingly modern city of over a million people in one of the coldest regions of Siberia. I was there to help measure ancient and historic wolf skulls. See my photo below of a group of feral dogs we encountered which were common throughout the city.]

If the Laptev Sea bear left the coast towards the end of March, as seems to be the case, that would have been prior to the timing of the birth of ringed and bearded seals at that latitude. Not only is late winter before the birth of seal pups the leanest time of the year for polar bears but its also when sea ice is at its maximum. At late March, the Laptev Sea was still socked in with ice 1.5-2.0 m thick (see chart below).

The fact that it the bear was said to be a young female (perhaps 2-4 years old) tells us most of what we need to know. Young bears are inexperienced hunters and are often unsuccessful at getting enough to eat over the winter when seals are difficult to catch. Moreover, she would have faced competition from older, bigger bears who would have continually driven her away from anything she caught or was able to scavenge (Amstrup 2003; Miller et al. 2006, 2015; Stirling 1974:1196). Such competition would explain why she might have turned to land to look for food, not lack of sea ice from which to hunt.

This means that the ‘scientists’ quoted below by The Times were making up nonsense for the media, who apparently didn’t think to question it. ‘Polar bear treks 1,500 miles south as Arctic hunting zone melts away‘ (The Times, UK: 13 May 2021):

Melting ice cover forced the bear into making the journey, scientists said, which saw her eventually arrive at the coal-mining village of Dzhebariki-Khaya in the Yakutia region of Russia, 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It was the farthest south a polar bear has been seen in Russia, Ilya Mordvintsev, a researcher at Russia’s Academy of Science, said yesterday.


Amstrup, S.C. 2003. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus). In Wild Mammals of North America, G.A. Feldhamer, B.C. Thompson and J.A. Chapman (eds), pg. 587-610. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Miller, S., Schliebe, S. and Proffitt, K. 2006. Demographics and behavior of polar bears feeding on bowhead whale carcasses at Barter and Cross Islands, Alaska, 2002-2004. Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Study MMS 2006-14, US Dept. of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Anchorage. Pdf here.

Miller, S., Wilder, J. and Wilson, R.R. 2015. Polar bear–grizzly bear interactions during the autumn open-water period in Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/09/10/jmammal.gyv140
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyv140

Stirling, I. 1974. Midsummer observations on the behavior of wild polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 52: 1191-1198. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z74-157#.VR2zaOFmwS4

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Tom Halla
May 16, 2021 2:13 pm

I wonder if the wandering bear was eating dogs?

Reply to  Tom Halla
May 16, 2021 2:24 pm

Only the dumb dogs. Evolution in action. Eventually a canine breed will emerge that suddenly tells humans: “hell with the arctic, I’m moving to Florida!”

Last edited 1 year ago by dk_
Richard Page
Reply to  dk_
May 17, 2021 5:11 pm

I think you just nailed it – you just got a better hypothesis for this bears behaviour than the original climate enthusiasts did!

Reply to  Tom Halla
May 18, 2021 9:48 am

maybe its possible

May 16, 2021 2:22 pm

Of couse Kodiak bears are lovable, cola drinking, ice cream eating, dancing, cuddly creatures with greater than advertising writer intelligence. They are not at all itinerant vicious predators and scavengers evolved to survive in a harsh, semi-aquatic environment with severe changes in seasonal food availability. Save them, Daddy! Save them all!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  dk_
May 16, 2021 3:11 pm

If you are alluding to the white bears on TV commercials, they are not Kodiak bears. They are polar bears.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 16, 2021 7:16 pm

🙂 Wasn’t sure how they identified themselves. You are correct.

Reply to  dk_
May 16, 2021 9:05 pm

Very closely related and may be able to inter-breed. Kodiaks are almost same size as well, so ‘kissing cousins’

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Duker
May 17, 2021 9:01 pm

…and more amenable to those Kodiak moments.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
May 18, 2021 7:17 pm

Good one.

At the same time, I wonder if Coca-Cola told its pet advertising tool to be less white?

Gary Pearse
May 16, 2021 2:44 pm

So a starving bear walks 1500 miles south. Pupils, using only this information, is this a BS story or the truth?

Rud Istvan
May 16, 2021 2:50 pm

Polar and brown bears are very closely related. Polars evolved from browns sometime between ~800kya and 1800kya per genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA and then whole genome DNA. Main phenotypic differences being fur color and density, and webbed paws for swimming. Plus, browns truly hibernate while polar males and barren females enter ‘walking hibernation’, while pregnant females den and likely do hibernate until giving birth. Browns gorge on summer salmon, polars on spring seals. They both have similar alternative secondary summer foraging habits as shown by a two year study of West Hudson Bay polars. Tundra bird eggs and chicks, berries, scavenged caribou carcasses. Discussed with references in essay Polar Bears in ebook Blowing Smoke before I learned about Dr. Crockford and thereafter deferred to her expertise.
This young bear just went alt secondary foraging a bit early.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Rud Istvan
May 16, 2021 4:11 pm

It would have been interesting if she had reached the frozen Sea of Okhotsk – she was close when they picked her up. Imagine one bear with all those seals! She may have had a long wait for a mate.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 17, 2021 12:52 am

Would seem ideal polar bear territory.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Rud Istvan
May 16, 2021 9:01 pm

Another way of summing it up is to simply observe that bears are omnivorous, highly adaptable, and rather intelligent, so they can learn to find and adopt the most plentiful and easily obtained resources available.
When circumstances demand, they find something else to eat, and stick with that as long as it serves their needs.

Abolition Man
May 16, 2021 3:05 pm

Scientists making stuff up; doesn’t this qualify them for an honorary doctorate in climate scientism?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Abolition Man
May 16, 2021 4:15 pm

If they were pushing global cooling instead, I trust the climate wroughters would have said worsening climate was going to drive the bears south. It would be a more saleable meme.

Bob boder
May 16, 2021 3:46 pm

Wandering animals can be from habitat change, but more often then not over population is the cause.

Richard Page
Reply to  Bob boder
May 17, 2021 4:41 am

And the way species behave in those circumstances is for individuals to move to less densely populated feeding grounds. This bear came so close to successfully doing that before those pesky humans stopped her!
The question is are we going to see more of this behaviour as Polar Bear populations continue to increase and the bears look to expand their habitats?

Serge Wright
May 16, 2021 3:53 pm

A single bear wandering away from it’s habitat zone becomes proof of climate change. Perhaps they should name the bear Yamal.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Serge Wright
May 16, 2021 8:34 pm

Hell, only ~6 or so of Mann’s bristlecone pines were sufficient to alter the temperature profile of the past 1000 years, apparently, (with a little help from Briffa’s Yamal Larch).

Good name for the bear.

May 16, 2021 4:00 pm

Well the only way I would believe that a polar bear migration was caused by climate would be if it was a mass migration of many bears. A single bear tells nothing of the story of the greater population and habitat.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Michael
May 16, 2021 8:36 pm

When you’re trying to keep a constantly sinking ship afloat, even the smallest straw can raise your spirits.

Steve Case
Reply to  Rory Forbes
May 16, 2021 9:48 pm

The good ship Global Warming, Climate Change, Climate Disruption, The Climate Emergency, The Climate Crisis isn’t sinking.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Steve Case
May 16, 2021 11:20 pm

Sadly no! The message has been repeated so often it’s now “settled science”,

Reply to  Rory Forbes
May 17, 2021 12:46 am

Even though it’s fatally holed below the waterline.

Richard Page
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
May 17, 2021 5:04 pm

That doesn’t really matter since it’s been grounded on thick Arctic sea ice for the last 20 years – won’t sink just yet!

Pat from kerbob
May 16, 2021 5:22 pm

Seems like this is more species shift or in the case of Polar bears, territory expansion

Too many bears for the ecosystem
After all there are 4-5 times as many as there were 40-50 years ago.

Population crash after over population is no fun to experience or watch

May 16, 2021 5:37 pm

Obviously, the bears have been following the solar cycles and know another Little Ice Age is coming. They’re just heading south before they are buried under the advancing glacier’s.

H. D. Hoese
May 16, 2021 5:50 pm

There is an old ecological concept called “extended foraging.” For whatever reason eat and roam differently. Long time since I researched it, but known in a few mammals, only one I recall is in hyenas. We suggested it once for sharks, but couldn’t find a human connection, other than attacks on humans.

May 16, 2021 6:15 pm

What kind of a moron do you have to be to use a wandering polar bear as a proxy for sea ice melting? Oh yeah a reporter for the Times. It must be difficult for such idiots to find the satellite data. Jeeez, even griff can find that, although he has been a bit AWOL recently and not updating us on the fact that yesterday, May 15th’s Arctic Sea Ice extent was above that of the same day in 2004 and 2006 amongst others:


Antarctica also bucks the “progressive” agenda of scaring people with the weather. Boldly progressing back to the Medieval.

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 17, 2021 12:47 am

Has Griff had a collision with reality?

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 17, 2021 2:58 am

Griff will explain that it isn’t the “right type” of ice, so it doesn’t count, or some such idiocy.

Really you have to admire him for the creativity of his excuses.

May 16, 2021 8:05 pm

A few years ago someone put a radio collar on a young male Polar bear. It movements were tracked via satellite. It was collared in Norther Alaska on the Arctic Ocean. It followed the coast until it got to the Bering sea which it swam across, it hit the Russian shore wandered west. It got to the east Siberian sea and head south over land to the Sea of Okhotsk. It swam across that to the Kamchatka Peninsula, crossed it head north following the coast line and at some point swam back to Alaska. Yes Polar bears do wander. That is not new, it to bad our snowflake press and scientist don’t know that.

Nicholas McGinley
May 16, 2021 8:58 pm

When animals overpopulate an area, they spread out, disperse, seek greener pastures.
IOW, they “wander”.
Predators especially.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
May 16, 2021 9:29 pm

Prime example – homo sapiens

May 16, 2021 9:19 pm

The map given shown the Lena River connecting to the Angara River and the outflow from Lake Baikal is incorrect.
The Angara river flows to the other great Siberian river the Yenesei the west of the Lena. Yes, the headwaters of the Lena are in the mountains along northern edge of Baikal, but the Angara through Irkutsk is the only outlet

M Courtney
Reply to  Duker
May 17, 2021 12:00 am

Would love to know more abut the Lena. The longest river in all Russia, from the edge of Mongolia to the Arctic.
It sounds ripe for a documentary.

Reply to  Duker
May 17, 2021 12:48 am

Thank you. I thought ‘huh?’ when I saw that.

May 16, 2021 9:39 pm

Its 600 miles ( in a straight line) from the Lena delta to the junction of the Aldan river. A long way for a polar bear ? [The town it was noted in was further up Aldan river]
Hell no, one in Alaska was tracked with a collar which had swum in open ocean for 425 miles in around 10 days. An 800-1000 mile walk up the river valleys would be easily done in a few months

May 16, 2021 9:54 pm

In Inuit language one of the terms for polar bear is pisugtooq, meaning eternal wanderer.
I wonder why they called them that……I mean most inuits do not have a degree in climate science??????

May 16, 2021 10:11 pm

So after screaming that climate change was going to cause species to migrate to higher latitudes, they want us to accept as evidence a single member of a single species going in the exact opposite direction?

Reply to  davidmhoffer
May 17, 2021 12:14 am

You really expect logical consistency from Alarmists?

Alan the Brit
May 16, 2021 10:50 pm

The Lena river, is that not the region one Vladimir Lenin came from, & where he took his name from? You know, Vlad baby, that well educated middle-class moderately wealthy fella whose Daddy was elevated to the Russian aristocracy??? Now, just how many millions of Human beings’ deaths was he responsible for??? Lost count myself!!!

May 17, 2021 12:32 am

when the ice edges keep retreating far and rapidly early in the season and don’t reappear till late, then bears can’t make it on or off the ice as they used to: more are spending time stuck onshore.

That’s an absolute fact.

An amazing amount of articles and effort on saying the bears are OK on this site… I think you all know the truth and are desperately trying to say ‘it ain’t so’

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2021 7:43 am

As usual you post opinions and treat them as fact, even lie sometimes like you are doing here.

The Polar Bear population numbers are at the highest in decades, and they can swim for a long time too.

Summer ice levels are insignificant factor in the Bears diet since their main prey has moved on by July and have accumulated most of their calories for the year by late June.

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2021 7:52 am

You also didn’t bother to read the article since it shows that the still thick sea ice was hugging the coast when the Bear left:

If the Laptev Sea bear left the coast towards the end of March, as seems to be the case, that would have been prior to the timing of the birth of ringed and bearded seals at that latitude. Not only is late winter before the birth of seal pups the leanest time of the year for polar bears but its also when sea ice is at its maximum. At late March, the Laptev Sea was still socked in with ice 1.5-2.0 m thick (see chart below).

You have a talent of being wrong and ignorant.

Reply to  griff
May 17, 2021 8:35 am

then bears can’t make it on or off the ice as they used to: more are spending time stuck onshore.
Yes griff, we know, polar bears have not learned to swim ’til today. That’s why they are not able to swim more than 100km at a stretch 😀

Climate believer
Reply to  griff
May 17, 2021 9:53 am

The truth that we all know is that you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

So obstinate are you about this subject, even high definition satellite images showing the sea covered in ice in May can’t sway you from your ignorant, stupid ideas.

It is you that is sinking further into desperation.

Ursus maritimus = Sea Bear, a marine mammal.

You actually believe that this Polar Bear is stuck.

PB iceberg.jpg
Reply to  Climate believer
May 17, 2021 11:10 am

Wasn’t there a polar bear swimming from Iceland to Greenland a year or two ago ?

Climate believer
Reply to  Krishna Gans
May 17, 2021 1:07 pm

I don’t recall Krishna, but there was the famous tagged adult female polar bear in the Beaufort Sea that made a continuous swim of 687 km over 9 days.

But according to some, bears just can’t swim like they used to.

Reply to  Climate believer
May 17, 2021 1:39 pm

232 hours without break swimming in water 2 – 6°C cold – was in 2008, after landing, he wandered 1800 km over ice before it was found.
What I said before was wrong in so far, the bear came from Greenland to Iceland, probably on an icefloe, so people assume.

Climate believer
May 17, 2021 2:30 am

1,500 miles? where are they counting that from, the actual North Pole?

If you calculate the distance to the Yana Gulf Bay area, in reality it’s about 700 miles.

Even if the bear left at the beginning of May and ran all the way to Yakutsk, their “melting ice” BS is just an outright lie. (see E0SDIS image)

The Russians have apparently taken the bear to Moscow, where it may well end up in a zoo.

I would have preferred it if they had attached a tracker and released her back where she should have been on the ice, at least then we could have seen what happened next, but of course, politics before science.

Gulf of Yana.png
May 17, 2021 6:08 am

but experts are unsure what made it embark on this odyssey.- Well, if they can’t figure out the whole “my turf ! get out now!” thing, they’re not very expert, are they?

Since there are plenty of photos of polar bears scavenging village dumps for edible stuff, this particular bear may have been a bit light and (probably) very hungry, but hardly starving. She was likely also chased off by other bears scavenging trash dumps for edible stuff, too, so yes, she’d be a bit light in the britches and hungry, but near a town with 4-leggers roaming loose, she’ll find food.

May 17, 2021 6:54 am

So, larger populations occupying larger areas and traveling throughout what in the past was their natural habitat means they are going extinct? Okey dokey, then.

Dave Andrews
May 17, 2021 8:28 am

According to a 1989 book I have on Polar Bears by Fred Bruemmer, a writer and photographer who spent many years observing wildlife in the Arctic, the Inuit refer to polar bears as “Pihoqahiak”, the ever wandering-one.

He notes ” Polar bears have been seen near the North Pole, an icy, hungry desert, which the Polar Inuit call kingmersoariartorfigssuak , “the place where one only eats (sled) dogs.”

He also notes that a bear tagged in Spitsbergen in 1967 was shot a year later in SW Greenland more than 2000 miles away.

(No, don’t ask me how you pronounce that!)

May 17, 2021 9:33 am

The melting sea ice is so severe that only ONE polar bear made it out alive?

May 18, 2021 2:32 am

A hefty carbon tax on everyone…if it will save at least one polar bear, it will be worth it.

May 18, 2021 2:36 am

When I read this kind of article, I always feel sorry and guilty. We are equal on earth and life matters regardless of species. Although I cannot regulate others, I try my best to behave myself. I buy the electric car or hybrid version of audi to reduce my emission in cars, like audi tt. Action is urgently needed!!!!!

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