Dr. Susan Crockford
I said last year that wandering polar bears appeared to be the new ‘starving’ polar bears that were formerly the go-to victims falsely blamed on lack of ice due to climate change and here we are again. Polar bear specialists and their cheer leaders so seldom disappoint.
Although not one of the Canadian news outlets that reported on the fat polar bear that was shot after unexpectedly showing up on the Gaspé peninsula two weeks ago blamed this incident on global warming, a few days later The Guardian in the UK stepped up.
Of course it did. My own report of the incident is here, from 1 May 2022, in case you missed it (with sea ice charts, as always).
Below you will fine the predictable narrative feed to the public by the polar bear specialists contacted by The Guardian for their story, Canadian police fatally shoot polar bear that wandered into Quebec community: Bear had wandered hundreds of kilometres south of species’ territory in incident experts say could become more common [Leyland Cecco, 3 May 2022]
The bear is believed to have wandered in from sea ice north of the community, but would have needed to swim portions of the St Lawrence River to reach the northern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.
It was shot dead on Sunday morning – an outcome experts say was inevitable.
“The moment I heard about where this bear was, I thought, ‘this is a dead bear,’” said Andrew Derocher, a professor of biology at the University of Alberta. “I worried it was going to show up someplace where it shouldn’t be, cause a problem, and it’s going to get shot.”
“We’re seeing more bears spend more time on land – including places where they haven’t been seen before,” said Geoff York, senior director at Polar Bears International. “The deck is really being reshuffled for polar bears – they have less consistency and variability. Things that may have worked for them in the past aren’t working for them today.”
Bears spending more time on the land means the likelihood of encounters with communities only increase, said Derocher.
“I can’t draw a straight line between climate change and events like this. But in general … these events are occurring more and more often. And we predict that they’re going to become more common.”
Well, I predict these events will increase as well: because of sea ice present where it usually forms and more bears than there used to be. That Gaspé bear wouldn’t have gotten there without sea ice and being capable of swimming long distances, for which polar bears are famous.
Follow up sea ice charts
This week, there is still sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:
And far from being ‘less ice’ than usual, the blue areas on the chart below indicated this is unusually abundant ice for this region (and for southern Labrador) for the 2nd week of May:
There is also abundant ice further north in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait (dark green is thick first year ice >1.2 metres thick):