Davis Strait polar bears in Eastern Canada are thriving according to new survey

From Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford

Pack ice is barreling down the Labrador coast, almost certainly bringing Davis Strait polar bears with it. And according to new survey results, those bears are doing just fine: numbers are stable, bears are fatter than they were in 2007, and cubs are surviving well – thanks largely to abundant harp seals.

According to the summary, the 2017-2018 survey generated a population estimate of 2,015 (range 1,603-2,588), which is statistically indistinguishable from the 2005-2007 study estimate of 2,158 (range 1,978-2,338). Notice the range of potential error is much larger for the most recent estimate, which is a result of different methods used (Dyck et al. 2021; Peacock et al. 2013). No bears were captured and collared for the 2018 study (the full report has not yet been made public).

What’s interesting is that in 2007, the body condition of bears was noted to have been worse than it had been in the 1990s yet the population size had increased markedly (Rode et al. 2012). Now body condition of bears has improved but numbers have not increased.

I suggest that it’s quite possible the actual number of bears in the population is at least somewhat greater than the official estimate indicates: that the real number lies closer to the higher end of the estimated range rather than at the middle. Of course, that’s always the case because these estimates are based on counting a subsample of bears and extrapolating to the entire region using a mathematical model.

However, this is why other indicators are important. Good body condition and good cub survival indicate a population that’s in good shape. Similar indicators have been seen in the Barents Sea and Chukchi Sea subpopulations (Aars et al. 2017; Norwegian Polar Institute 2021; Rode et al. 2014, 2018).

Certainly, 2017 and 2018 stood out as having many more sightings of bears along the Labrador and northern Newfoundland coast than there were in 2007. In contrast, sea ice was extensive along that coast in 2007 yet there were no sightings of polar bears reported.

There were several sightings in 2008 and a spate of trouble in 2012 that resulted in a few bears being killed for safety concerns. Then in 2017 and 2018 – the same years of the most recent population survey – there were reports of many more sightings: at least nine in 2017 amid extensive ice and even more (12-18) in 2018 (Crockford 2020:34).

Labrador sea ice 2022

Big picture first:

Sea ice conditions this year show Davis Strait ice (light green) moving south rapidly against thinner, newly-formed ice (purple) along the coast.

Compare above to 2017, when the ice was very thick later in the season north of Newfoundland: thicker, first year ice from the north (light green) had replaced virtually all new ice along the coast.

Time will tell if the pack ice off Newfoundland in April will be as thick as it was in 2017 but at the moment, conditions are looking good for East Coast harp seals set to give birth to pups in March and the Davis Strait polar bears that come to feed on them.


Aars, J., Marques,T.A, Lone, K., Anderson, M., Wiig, Ø., Fløystad, I.M.B., Hagen, S.B. and Buckland, S.T. 2017. The number and distribution of polar bears in the western Barents Sea, Polar Research 36:1, 1374125.

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

Dyck, M., Dunham, K.D., Ware, J.V., Koons, D.N., Regehr, E.V., Hosmer, D.W., Derocher, A.E., Dale, A., Pisapio, J. and Szor, G. 2021. Re-estimating the abundance of the Davis Strait polar bear subpopulation by genetic mark-recapture. Final Report to Nunavut Wildlife Boards. Government of Nunavut, Igloolik, 17 December. Two page summary and title page provided by A.E. Derocher via Twitter https://twitter.com/AEDerocher/status/1473001033257218051; the entire final report had not yet been made public by the time this report was written.

Norwegian Polar Institute. 2021. Polar bear cubs per litter, number of females with cubs of different ages, and condition in adult polar bear males. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ), 8 September. http://www.mosj.no/en/fauna/marine/polar-bear.html

Peacock, E., Taylor, M.K., Laake, J., and Stirling, I. 2013. Population ecology of polar bears in Davis Strait, Canada and Greenland. Journal of Wildlife Management 77:463–476

Rode, K.D., Peacock, E., Taylor, M., Stirling, I., Born, E.W., Laidre, K.L., and Wiig, Ø. 2012. A tale of two polar bear populations: ice habitat, harvest, and body condition. Population Ecology 54:3-18. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10144-011-0299-9

Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2014.  Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76–88.

Rode, K.D., Wilson, R.R., Douglas, D.C., Muhlenbruch, V., Atwood, T.C., Regehr, E.V., Richardson, E.S., Pilfold, N.W., Derocher, A.E., Durner, G.M., Stirling, I., Amstrup, S.C., St. Martin, M., Pagano, A.M. and Simac, K. 2018. Spring fasting behavior in a marine apex predator provides an index of ecosystem productivity. Global Change Biology 24(1):410-423.

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Rex Malott
February 1, 2022 6:20 pm

The problem with polar bears and global warming is that the world expectation of these bears is an ice environment, without land. While the truth is these are highly adaptable creatures.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Rex Malott
February 1, 2022 10:08 pm

Indoctrination and miseducation are what you are describing.

There is no problem with the polar bears

The problem is entirely with the humans

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rex Malott
February 2, 2022 2:45 am

especially when not hunted

Reply to  Rex Malott
February 2, 2022 4:38 am


The earliest known fossil remains of polar bears and their immediate antecedents are about 3 million years old, meaning they predate the Quaternary period, meaning the entire “ice age” string of 26 glaciations and interglacials. Talk about adaptability!

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Duane
February 2, 2022 8:43 am

I thought that genetic analysis suggested that polar bears and grizzlies split off about about 250,000 years ago or so. Do I mis-remember?

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 2, 2022 10:30 am

Not genetic – actual fossil find

Richard Page
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 2, 2022 10:36 am

Yup – I believe Duane has made a slight error. The earliest known fossil remains of Polar Bears were found on Svalbard and date to around 110,000 – 130,000 years ago. There are no known polar bear fossil remains from any earlier period. It’s a very interesting fossil as it has preserved DNA which indicated that the bear was living, hunting and eating the same as modern Polar bears but genetically was almost the same as Brown bears. The scientists estimate that the bear was close to the point when Polar Bears split from Brown bears, which probably happened no earlier than about 150,000 years ago. All of this is easily available to a basic internet search.

Reply to  Richard Page
February 2, 2022 5:45 pm

I wrote “polar bears and their antecedents”. Virtually no species has existed unchanged for millions of years – every species continues to evolve to achieve maximum success. Including humans. The point being, polar bears and their ancestors are extremely adaptable with fossil funds going back 3 million years.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Richard Page
February 3, 2022 8:35 am

That’s very interesting. It suggests the possibility that this is the first interglacial period for this species and its particular ecological niche. However, given the dramatic changes made by moving ice during glacial periods, I would wonder if earlier fossils are just very hard to find. The genetics suggests that it is a pretty new species.

February 1, 2022 6:53 pm

It looks like Arctic ice extent is already greater than its maximum that was recorded in 1974 and it’s still increasing. The typical yearly maximum extent reaches its peak in about a month.

Keith Van Ausdal
Reply to  Scissor
February 2, 2022 9:02 am

Scissor — this year’s arctic freeze is well above recent years (fluctuating around 15th or 16th lowest on this date per JAXA data reported on Artic Sea Ice Forum). That’s good news unless your name is Al Gore. Maybe 1974 was a low year, but extent not in record territory.

February 1, 2022 7:06 pm

Grif will be weighing in shortly with his mathematical model, showing polar bears in a steep decline.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Alan
February 1, 2022 10:09 pm

Griff doesn’t do math, I’m unsure he is even aware it exists.

Richard Page
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
February 2, 2022 10:38 am

He knows it exists – it’s just that it is too difficult for bears of little brain like Griffy or ‘Climate scientists’.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
February 3, 2022 8:39 am

He thinks math is racist. I wonder if he knows polar bears are black under that fur.

February 1, 2022 10:49 pm

There are still polar bears?
Has David Attenborough been made aware of this discovery?

Reply to  Mr.
February 1, 2022 11:00 pm

Of course he’s aware

The facts don’t fit the narrative so they are hushed uo

Reply to  Redge
February 1, 2022 11:25 pm

Not aware. Senile, like LGB.

Reply to  Mr.
February 2, 2022 4:40 am

The bears followed the walrus off the cliff, being chased by Attenborough camera persons.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Mr.
February 3, 2022 8:41 am

He forgot to take the lens cap of his camera and closed his eyes, just in case he might see something true.

February 1, 2022 10:58 pm

Davis Straits?

I thought the polar bears were in Dire Straits!

February 2, 2022 1:06 am

‘Pack ice is barreling down the Labrador coast’

and why is that? why is Labrador seeing so many low ice years affecting seal population?

More misdirection!

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 1:36 am

poor Griff. Time to put your head up back where it belongs.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 2:47 am

maybe the world is far more complicated than you can imagine

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 3:15 am

Like The Guardian, his favourite paper, Griff is never right about anything, ever. Good old reliable Griff.

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 4:22 am

Griff mate, before shooting from the hip, you should check the facts for yourself

If you look at the menu there’s a handy reference where you will see the only misdirection comes from you

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 4:44 am

Uhh, maybe because Labrador is not actually in the Arctic, the center of the province being at 54 deg north latitude, just south of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Climate believer
Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 5:13 am

Yes, you can see the effect here:

Harp seal pop 1952-2019.png
Richard Page
Reply to  griff
February 2, 2022 10:40 am

But it isn’t affecting the seal population – that’s the crux of the article. Seal populations are flourishing, as are the Polar Bears that feed on them.

john harmsworth
Reply to  griff
February 3, 2022 8:48 am

So what you’re saying is that the stable population of fat and healthy bears is proof of the disaster that we otherwise can’t see, except in models of the future? Is that right?

Bill Rocks
February 2, 2022 7:12 am

Thank you for the update about the polar bears and Davis Strait ice conditions.

Bruce Cobb
February 2, 2022 8:13 am

I remember when the poley bears aka the canaries in the climate coal mine were “doomed” according to the Warmunists.

Jeff Labute
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
February 2, 2022 8:46 am

They are still doomed according to warmunists. Only have to go as far as the WWF TV commercials and donate your $100 today to make sure every polar bear will have a home.

LOL. I don’t know what they think they can do with their donations to make any such change. I feel like calling them up to find out, I am so curious. It is worse than buying holy water from TV preachers.

Richard Page
Reply to  Jeff Labute
February 2, 2022 10:46 am

Don’t be curious or you’ll find out that 0% of the donations go to the Polar Bears whilst the many employees of the WWF enjoy a comfortable income, good retirement package and generous holiday time, where they can jet off to exotic locales. Not to mention the money that is siphoned off to support activists of, shall we say, dubious moral standing?

Reply to  Jeff Labute
February 2, 2022 3:19 pm

No, no. Now you have to buy a bracelet from FAHLO with the name of a polar bear on it.

Joao Martins
February 2, 2022 9:43 am

Davis Strait polar bears in Eastern Canada are thriving according to new survey

Must be wrong: it’s just a survey, not a model output…

Bruce Cobb
February 2, 2022 10:03 am

The poley bear at the top looks like one of them Ninja Bears.

Richard Page
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
February 2, 2022 10:48 am

“Just a little bit closer, just a little bit and then I will spring into action with my incredible skills. That’s if I can be bothered.”

February 2, 2022 3:14 pm

It should be obvious to everyone that seal populations are much more important to Polar Bears than sea ice levels. We have all be taught that predator populations are locked into a cycle with their pray.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
February 3, 2022 8:52 am

Seal populations, in turn are dependent on fish, so far as I know. It could be that the changes to Canadian fishing limits has improved the food source for the seals. I know the cod numbers have been steadily rising on the East coast. On the other hand, the fur seal hunt is greatly reduced, but regardless, there does seem to be more fish.

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