Explaining Abundant Polar Bear Sightings on The East Coast as An Upshot of Sea Ice Loss Is Absurd

From Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford,

Last week, a senior producer at CBC News, in order to concoct a timely story for ‘Earth Day’, attempted to explain the high number of sightings of polar bears this April in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to the last two years, as a consequence of climate change and its handmaiden, loss of Arctic sea ice.

Title: ‘With an extinction threat looming, no wonder polar bears are at our door — and on the roof: there’s a grim reason why polar bears have been frequently showing up in coastal communities’. CBC News, 23 April 2022

The problem with this narrative is that the East Coast had much reduced sea ice in 2021 and virtually no polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and none in Labrador. There was more ice in 2020 than 2021 but also few bearsThis year, ice extent was similar to 2020 for most of the region but polar bear sightings were up considerably.

In fact, the two years with the most sightings and problems with polar bears since 2008 were 2017 and 2018: in 2017, sea ice was exceptionally thick in April (although average in extent) and by June the sea ice was so thick and enduring that the Newfoundland fishing fleet couldn’t get out for spring openings; 2018 was another year of average sea ice extent and had even an even larger number of sightings than 2017, in Newfoundland especially (Crockford 2019:32). This suggests the sea ice vs. polar bear correlation on the East Coast since 2008 – if there even is one – may be the opposite of that stated in the CBC article: less ice usually means fewer bears onshore in Newfoundland and Labrador and more ice often means more bears.

The article’s premise rests on two opinions: an eight-year old quote from polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher, stating his view on the relationship between sea ice decline and the potential for polar bear population decline, and the opinion of a polar bear guard from the community of Black Tickle (who is a Canadian Ranger, not a scientist), that sightings this year were up because of climate change.

Here is an excerpt:

Polar bears have been stressed with the loss of ice, with some researchers raising concerns for years now about possible extinction.

“It’s clear that, you change the sea ice, you affect the bears,” Andrew Derocher, a University of Alberta professor and polar bear authority, told CBC News in 2016.

“There’s only so far that you can push them. At some point there’s just not enough sea ice for them to persist in an area and we would expect them to blink out.”

The crisis affecting polar bears has been playing out before eyes for years, and communities that are closer to the sea ice have been getting used to perennial visitors. Consider Black Tickle, a small fishing community in southern Labrador, not far by sea from St. Anthony.

“I think we’ve had 17, 18 or something come through,” resident Jeffrey Keefe said earlier this month. (It’s happened before; in 2015, Keefe said dealing with polar bears was “like herding cows.“)

It’s obviously a change in ways for humans and bears alike. Keefe related that this season, polar bears have been spotted away from the shoreline. “We’ve had polar bears actually in through the trails, in through the woods, because they’re getting drove ashore in different areas,” he said. [note: in 2015, Keefe made the same observation about bears showing up on local trails in February].

Keefe points to climate change for unpredictable changes in ice.

Sea ice extent in late February 2015 (when Keefe mentions that Black Tickle a similar number of polar bear visits as 2022) was above average, which I pointed out at the time (ice chart below for 25 Feb 2015):

In the 25 February 2015 CBC story about polar bear visits to Black Tickle, Keefe said nothing about climate change:

There were about 12 bears on the island at one time a few years ago, said Keefe.

In the past, bear visits went mostly unnoticed by those outside of Black Tickle, but social media has changed all that.

The word is now out that Black Tickle is a popular destination for polar bears.

Last year, Keefe estimates that 28 bears came through the area.

As Keefe mentioned, Black Tickle had many problem bears in early March 2014, when ice extent off Labrador was also above average (ice chart below for 3 March 2014):

Keefe was also quoted by the CBC in early February 2016 regarding a spate of polar bear problems in several communities along the Labrador coast, including Black Tickle since late January, but that time he blamed the problem on extensive sea ice:

“The only thing I can figure is that there’s a lot of sea ice, so I guess they’re on the move earlier … they just wait around for the sea ice so they can get out to the seals.”

Last year, Keefe estimated 23 bears travelled through the area.

And it was true that ice extent was average for that time of year (end of January 2016):

However, the next day (7 February 2016), the provincial Minister responsible for wildlife in Labrador and Newfoundland, insisted in a radio interview that …climate change does play a role here [in the increased number of sightings].

Later that spring, Derocher chimed in with his climate change message. Several times since then, Mr. Keefe has mentioned climate change to explain polar bear sightings in Labrador. Funny how that works.

Summary of March sea ice vs. polar bear sightings 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022

2017, when sea ice extent was about average across the East Coast and there were many sightings of polar bears in Newfoundland and Labrador:

2018, when sea ice was only slightly below average off southern Labrador but there were many sightings of polar bears in Newfoundland especially (although fewer in Labrador):

2020, when sea ice was only slightly below average across the East Coast and there were almost no sightings of polar bears in Newfoundland and Labrador:

2021, when sea ice was well below average on the East Coast (especially off Newfoundland) and there were few (if any) sightings of polar bears in Newfoundland or Labrador:

2022, when sea ice was average for most of the region and there were many sightings of polar bears in Newfoundland and Labrador:

Why was this silly CBC piece even written? The clue was in the last line:

Friday was Earth Day, a day earmarked to look at environmental issues and climate change. It’s hard locally not to connect the dots with shrinking ice caps and sea ice and a species that is struggling to adjust.

At least the article came with this warning:

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This column is part of a CBC News initiative entitled “Our Changing Planet” to show and explain the effects of climate change.


Crockford, S.J. 2019. State of the Polar Bear Report 2018. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 32, London. pdf here.

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Joao Martins
May 1, 2022 6:19 am

The authors would have done better if, instead of imagining theories, they had asked the bears why they are changing their wandering…

Reply to  Joao Martins
May 1, 2022 6:51 am

Fossil remains of polar bears have been found in southern England. A reintroduction experiment in the middle of an XR protest would be interesting.

Reply to  Scissor
May 2, 2022 1:11 am

Did they eat the hippos in the Thames?

May 1, 2022 6:43 am

One obvious reason that there are more bear sightings is that there are more bears. After all, of the 5000 bears alive in 1960, there are only 37000 bears remaining. More bears, the greater chance of bear sightings.

Reply to  DonK31
May 1, 2022 8:13 am

And when there are more bears, more will be found wondering south into regions where such sightings in the past have been rare. What will be the alarmist “experts” explanation for that?

Reply to  rah
May 2, 2022 1:08 am

It’s called population pressure. But the greentards will jut lie.

Bill Coleman
May 1, 2022 6:53 am

So, there are multiple factors that affect the Arctic populations seen in lower latitudes. Generally, lower temperatures, larger population and moving for more food access are the major factors, not warmer temps, which would tend to reduce the need to wander further South.

Coeur de Lion
May 1, 2022 7:03 am

What’s all this about disappearing Arctic ice?

Harkle Pharkle
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
May 1, 2022 3:53 pm

All the ice disappeared in 2013, didn’t you hear?

Reply to  Harkle Pharkle
May 1, 2022 4:42 pm

Darn I must have missed it. Lots of fake ice up there now. What is the low CO2 equivalent of ice they are using now.

May 1, 2022 7:05 am

I am disgusted by alarmists who only seek explanations which support their narrative. Like the starving polar bear which was more likely diseased or the bears raiding dumpsters must be starving due to lack of prey without considering there coukd be increased competition for the prey.
And the unceasing use of may, might, could, likely… I often become discouraged when my female kinfolk are influenced by the cherry picked and photo-shopped images of “those poor things…” but never consider the unintended consequences of human interventions.
I’m in favor of reasonable (now I use a weasel word) environmental preservation but some people cannot accept that Mother Nature is a cruel mistress who cares little about our good intentions.
One thing which is approaching extinction on this planet is critical thinking – but history shows even that has never reached sustainable levels

Reply to  czechlist
May 1, 2022 7:13 am

“bears raiding dumpsters”

Dumpsters can’t slide into the water to escape, either. 😉

Point is, if you leave stinky food out in dumpsters, of course the PBs will come for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by bnice2000
Reply to  b.nice
May 1, 2022 8:15 am

It doesn’t have to be stinky. Black bears commonly break into parked vehicles simply because someone left an open bag of snack food in there.

John Hultquist
Reply to  rah
May 1, 2022 8:53 am

South Lake Tahoe is the center for this activity. Sometimes the auto is “totaled” and houses are also involved. Search terms:
Hank the Tank, and
lake_tahoe car ruined by bear

Old Man Winter
Reply to  b.nice
May 1, 2022 5:55 pm

It’s amazing how stupid & dull can be. They fail to recognize fo$$!l fu*!s = 24/7 solar.

They don’t see dumpsters as being Yogi’s YUGE pick-a-nick baskets with prepared food
inside. Which will they choose- prepared food VS scavenging in the wild?

Same goes for wolves released into Jellystone- grass-fed USDA prime beef on the hoof VS
scavenging in the wild?

Reply to  b.nice
May 5, 2022 1:10 pm

It an easy source of food. Of course they are going to get into them. No one says black or brown bears are starving despite the same exact behavior.

Climate believer
May 1, 2022 7:08 am

The inevitable clutching at straws…

May 1, 2022 7:11 am

Did y’all know that for the last 3 days, there has been a greater extent of Arctic sea ice than on the same days in 1989 !

Last edited 1 year ago by bnice2000
Reply to  b.nice
May 1, 2022 8:10 am

Yea, but it’s thin, rotten, no good ice! Just ask the “experts”.

Reply to  b.nice
May 1, 2022 3:11 pm

And we’re tied with 2013 and 2014 and from then to now we’ve got MORE ice today on this date over that 8 year period…so the canary in the coal mine appears to show global cooling. /s


Reply to  b.nice
May 2, 2022 8:01 am

Ice was really healthy back in the 1930s when the really cold, homogenized temperatures facilitated ice-making.
The recorded temperatures of the 1930s were just not correct. The numbskulls back in those days could not read thermometers properly. Unlike the pale, bespectacled nerds who now gaze longingly at computer monitors each and every day for a “””living”””.

H. D. Hoese
May 1, 2022 7:36 am

Haven’t checked lately but historically back to discovery days the most northern production of the American/Eastern oyster was the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Malpeque Bay oysters were famous, but some summers too cold for spawning like it always has been in the Bay of Fundy. Years when oysters spawn they have a shipworm problem, wood, not oysters which have an ice problem. Intertidal oysters froze in places on the Texas coast last year. There is Gulf of Mexico oyster production as far S as 19 degrees N in Mexico, no ice problem.

May 1, 2022 7:41 am

An important question not answered is has the human population in these areas increased since 2014? More people would mean more garbage which would lead to more sightings since bears of all types love them some garbage to root through. Oh, and all that ice does not have garbage to root through, and seals and whatnot take a lot of effort to catch. Garbage? Not so much.

Steve Richards
May 1, 2022 8:01 am

It’s worse than we thought!

Climate change causes more bears and less bears!

We are doomed I tell yer!

May 1, 2022 8:07 am

CBC has abandoned all pretense of journalism long ago. Hundreds of stories are easily refutable with real time data on a variety of subjects. Most recently, they got caught making up propaganda about protestors in Ottawa to help justify the governments illegal use of the War Measures Act to arrest protestors. I won’t hold my breath that anyone will be fired.

In my opinion, if a journalist passes off propaganda as fact, they are taking money from me under false pretenses and are committing fraud.

The only thing worse than their propaganda is that I unfortunately pay for it with my tax dollars. I have no polite words to describe the people churning this stuff out.

Thanks Dr Crockford for once again correcting our tax-leeching state news.

Reply to  DaveinCalgary
May 1, 2022 2:41 pm

People need to know how often CBC has lied. thank you for your comment Dave in Calgary. It’s time to defund the CBC or have their license revoked.

Ron Long
May 1, 2022 8:27 am

As usual, another report by Dr. Susan with facts about polar bears. Derocher “…expect them to blink out.” Polar bears are apex predators, if somehow they lost access to seals they would switch to eating tasty meals, like Professor Derocher, or whatever else they could.

Pete Bonk
May 1, 2022 8:29 am

If a polar bear poops on the ice, is it still due to climate change?

Reply to  Pete Bonk
May 2, 2022 5:07 pm

Is poop “carbon pollution”?

Paul Stevens
May 1, 2022 10:33 am

I don’t know the answers, so I will ask the questions. Are seals somewhat territorial in their behaviours? Does a seal have multiple pups? If a number of polar bears moved through an area one year, would that impact the number of seals in that area the next year? If so, might polar bears not have learned to harvest seals from different areas that had not been recently harvested? Would this not show up as cyclic phenomena, wherein some years there would be more bears with less bears in subsequent seasons. Since sea ice, as I understand it, affects seal populations because they need to haul out to birth and ween, would there not be a correlation to sea ice presence, seal populations and polar bears hunting them?

Inquiring minds want to know.

May 1, 2022 11:17 am

It’s the age old game of scammers and propagandists: “Heads I win, tails you lose”.

In this case, more polar bear sightings means fewer polar bears … and fewer polar bear sightings means fewer polar bears.

May 1, 2022 12:29 pm

You’ll never hear the climate doom-sayers speak of Antarctica. For decades there has been consistent cold, snow and ice accumulation. The last several years record cold, snow and ice accumulation. Its ice pack is growing in leaps and bounds.
Also the number of catastrophic hurricanes and tornadoes has dwindled for over twenty years.
Oceans have NOT risen in any significant way and total rainfalls/snow have continued as forever in their cyclical pattern.
Conclusion: Climate change etc is a lie pushed by the elite globalist for political and power grabbing. The planet is in no danger, chicken littles.

Reply to  bill
May 1, 2022 5:49 pm

They just recently did hype a “heatwave” in Antarctica when it got up to -11 C for a short time. Got much more press than the six month record period of cold last winter.

Then a few days later it was in the news again! When they said the Glenzer Conger ice shelf “collapsed”. Alarmists think it is a major life threatening event for terrestrial life everywhere when a big ice cube breaks into a smaller ice cubes.

Climate Experts Believe History Began After 2014 | Real Climate Science

Ed Zuiderwijk
May 1, 2022 1:43 pm

Just look. Just look at those bears. They are fat as mud. Hungry? Maybe. Starving? Don’t let me laugh.

Harkle Pharkle
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
May 1, 2022 3:59 pm

I dunno, they look pretty mean to me. Better they should go after Jeffrey Keefe 

Dave Fair
May 1, 2022 1:44 pm

The government’s Ranger at Black Tickle, Jeffrey Keefe, like all good bureaucrats changes his story to suit the governmental policy of the day. Little ice, lots of bears: climate change. Lots of ice, lots of bears: climate change.

Keefe points to climate change for unpredictable changes in ice.” Interannual changes in sea ice cannot be ascribed to climate change. This is Leftist government propaganda.

Old Man Winter
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 1, 2022 5:46 pm

Like pushing a button/pulling a string on a talking toy! 😮

Howard Dewhirst
May 1, 2022 2:56 pm

As well as publishing this rebuttal here, could a formal complaint about the shoddy ‘science’ to CBS do more good?

May 1, 2022 3:42 pm

It would be reasonable to think this bear problem is caused by population pressures i.e. bears moving closer to humans because the more remote bear territory is getting too crowded. This can’t be said because failing to maintain the narrative results in professional and social disaster.

May 1, 2022 7:16 pm

BTW. Andrew Derocher is one of the leading clowns in the “Global Warming” Comedy Show.

May 2, 2022 7:56 am

I think that polar bear numbers could be accurately predicted by counting tree rings.
97% of scientists agree with this approach.

Jim G.
May 2, 2022 6:29 pm

You know that it’s not about climate change when good news is constantly derided.

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