Hudson Bay Sea Ice Update: Many Polar Bears are Still on Low Concentration Ice Offshore

From Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford

Almost half of all tagged Western Hudson polar bears are still out on the ice of Hudson Bay, even though much of it is broken up in pieces: as of yesterday, 10 out of 22 bears were still offshore.

Mother and cub near Churchill last year, 30 October 2021.

This is shaping up to be a great year for Hudson Bay bears!

It also appears none of the bears onshore are causing problems in Churchill, as the Polar Bear Alert Program weekly reports for Churchill have not yet begun. Last year the first report was issued for the first week of July, while in 2020 the first report didn’t come out until the end of August.

Sea Ice Charts

For the first week of August 2022.

Weekly chart for 1 August 2022 by stage of development (i.e. thickness):

Daily charts for 4 August 2022 by concentration (below), Northern and Southern Hudson Bay (note all of this ice, as in the chart above, is first year ice >1.2m thick):

Tracking polar bears with collars

According to Andrew Derocher (3 August), who installed the tracking devices on these 22 bears:

Some W. Hudson Bay polar bears hanging out on the last sea ice. It’s been too cloudy to get a good ice image but there’s precious little left. August ashore is a great year for the bears!

Note that the ice charts Derocher uses show only ice >50% concentration, which at this time of year leaves out a lot of polar bear habitat. Some bears are staying out on the ice as long as physically possible while a few others at the same latitude headed to shore much earlier: clearly, there is some aspect of individual preference regarding when bears decide to head ashore and is not all based on some set-in-stone threshold of ice concentration as polar bear specialists would have you believe.

Compare the charts above to Derocher’s chart below: what looks like bears on open water north and south of Churchill are actually tagged bears on low concentration sea ice (which is probably used by even more untagged bears):

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August 7, 2022 2:09 am

Just a guess as to the preferences of the bears as to when they leave, but its probably the 80-20 rule. These numbers seem to be hardwired into evolution, and delimit species survivability. 80% do one thing in current conditions, that is proven to help the species. But the 20% do another, and help ensure species survivablity if conditions suddenly change.

Bloke down the pub
Reply to  Les Johnson
August 7, 2022 4:45 am

I was just about to write something along similar lines but I think you’ve covered it well.

August 7, 2022 4:26 am

From the article: “[…] clearly, there is some aspect of individual preference regarding when bears decide to head ashore and is not all based on some set-in-stone threshold of ice concentration as polar bear specialists would have you believe.”

If polar bears start carrying smart phones, then yeah, they might look at the ice cover maps and decide it’s time to go ashore when the ice concentration hits a certain threshold. But that won’t happen because everybody knows the polar bears don’t have pockets and cell coverage is spotty in the Arctic anyhow.

Seriously, each polar bear can only know about ice conditions in their immediate area and make decisions based on what experience and their tummy is telling them. And if it’s saying, “I’m hungry and I’m not getting anything more out here. I’ll just mosey on over where the walruses are hauling out.” Or maybe it’s “I think I’ll raid that dump I ran across.”

Migratory birds head for their nesting grounds or their Wintering territory, but not all at the same time. There are always the early birds, then the majority, then the laggards. Why would polar bears be any different? Why would some researchers expect anything different?

From my fishing experience (passion!), I have noticed that the Fall feed seems most dependent on length of day and the angle of the sun. Since fish are coldblooded, temperature does play a part. But we have warm Fall seasons where temperature isn’t a factor and yet the fish are on their Fall feed.

Maybe length of day and Sun angle is what drives polar bears. Some things are hardwired into critters with seasonal behavior patterns, but the response and resulting action varies with individuals. And I do know that every fish, fowl, and the fanged always follow the food.

Perhaps polar bears are driven as much by “Sun Time” as they are by sea ice concentration. I dunno. That’s just my ignorant outsider’s WAG. That’s why I read Dr. Crockford’s articles to see what researchers are discovering.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  H.R.
August 7, 2022 10:31 am

A more immediate signal is the presence of seals on the ice. As long as they are gettable they will be hunted. Bears instinctively will overeat for insurance, to tide themselves over the worst of winters.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 7, 2022 1:15 pm

Certainly, Gary. I mentioned that in the food chain, all of the creatures follow the food. You put a finer point on that. Very nice. 👍

But I was wondering if the position of the sun had anything to do with their behavior. I ‘m not speculating that it’s a major driver. As you point out, if their food is still there, the bears will still be there.

I’ve been puttering on chores and just a bit ago, it occurred to me that temperature changes were probably low on the list of behavioral factors. Unless a bear is really scrawny, with little insulating fat, the bears pretty much don’t care how cold it is up to some crazy cold point.

Obviously, polar bears won’t go out on the ice if there is no ice, and they must retreat to land as the ice melts away.

But as Dr. Crockford pointed out, there is no setpoint of ice concentration where all of the bears will come ashore. So, I was wondering if polar bears as individuals react to the change in the position of the Sun at slightly different times. As I said. I dunno. The bears may not give a hang about it.

Hmmm… it might be a factor in their Winter dormancy for some bears. “Oh my. Look at the time!”

August 7, 2022 4:46 am

Doc! This has got to be wrong! AlGore:The Goreacle says there is no ice or snow anywhere in the Arctic and that all Polar Bears are dead. AlGore:The Goreacle wouldn’t lie, would he?

Ron Long
August 7, 2022 5:44 am

Always good to see Dr. Susan keeps us informed about the Polar Bears, the poster boy for the CAGW crowd. Now, how about the Ringed Seals? What? Say what?

Reply to  Ron Long
August 7, 2022 5:58 am

Goes unsaid – what’s good for Polar Bears is not so good for their prey.

Always enjoy Dr. Crockford’s enlightening articles.

Reply to  BobM
August 7, 2022 7:05 am

I wish she would mention that polar bears are great swimmers
They don’t look like great swimmers, but they are.
Polar bears can swim for long distances and steadily for many hours to get from one piece of ice to another.

I’m starting a new movement:
Save the seals — kill the polar bears!
Seals are friendly
A polar bear would eat me for lunch.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  BobM
August 8, 2022 8:18 pm

That is backward
There is more polies because there are more seals, there are more seals because there is less ice.
Not shooting too many of the polies also helps.

August 7, 2022 5:57 am

If it is, good -but it would be the first for decades – and the decline will soon resume.

There is and there is not going to be any arctic ice ‘recovery’

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 5:58 am

Pessimistic much?

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 6:10 am

Take off your green glasses, then you may better see the realities 😀

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 6:12 am

Pro-tip, Griff, do a little research before posting

This is a good place to start: Susan Crockford PhD a zoologist with more than 40 years of experience (former adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia

Come back to us when you’ve read up on some real science, not scare-mongering and data free declarations

Reply to  Redge
August 7, 2022 7:06 am

“Pro-tip, Griff, do a little research before posting”

But then how would we know the comment
was actually made by the Grifter?

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 6:54 am

Griff, sorry to bother you (again) but you still haven’t answered this post, your in tray must be overflowing by now.

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 7:01 am

There has already been a large Arctic ice recovery since 2012
You must have been out of town while it was happening

Ron Long
Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 7:37 am

Let’s take up a collection to send griff up to pet a polar bear.

Reply to  Ron Long
August 7, 2022 8:38 am

Polar bears need colder weather — send him a warthog.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 8:58 am

With all the wild WEATHER going on my worry is that’s it’s getting cooler.
I’d rather it didn’t, I’d rather it actually warm up

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 9:24 am

You have been told many times that there were little to zero summer ice in the early to mid-Holocene which you continue to ignore while the Bears are still with us.

Here is the thread showing a list of published papers:

 Little to No Summer ice in the Arctic

John Hultquist
Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 9:36 am

 Come on man!
Do you know about binoculars, scope-sighted rifles, snow mobiles, and airplanes? Have you heard of excessive, now banned, hunting?
I don’t have the time or interest in educating you. Do it yourself.

Reply to  griff
August 7, 2022 9:46 am

Hey idiot there never been a decline in at least the last 60 years. Where the hell do you get you data. There are 10X more polar bears today as compare to the population when I was a child.

H. D. Hoese
August 7, 2022 7:07 am

This may have been noted before, but it is interesting that AAAS has made a polar bear discovery. “…. marine-terminating glaciers, although of limited availability, may serve as previously unrecognized climate refugia.”

There was recently a rerun program on the old Wild Kingdom about having to relocate a bear bothering Churchill. WK runs Sunday evening on RFDTV.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
August 7, 2022 7:57 am

I got curious and don’t know anything about the polar bear literature, but did not see Crockford cited in 146 references that included lots on genomes, including dogs and horses. Others— Chromosome-scale shotgun assembly using an in vitro method for long-range linkage. Genome Res.26, 342–350 (2016). Positive trend in the mean speed and deformation rate of Arctic sea ice, 1979–2007. J. Geophys. Res.114, C05013 (2009),  Harvesting wildlife affected by climate change: A modelling and management approach for polar bears. J. Appl. Ecol.54, 1534–1543 (2017). The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology73, 1943–1967 (1992).

Based on what I do know in fisheries and marine ecology, being ignored is a good sign in the long run. Their’s and latter paper cited are paywalled so not fair, but one wonders if they read that last one.
First line of abstract– “It is argued that the problem of pattern and scale is the central problem in ecology, unifying population biology and ecosystems science, and marrying basic and applied ecology.” Scale especially is difficult to comprehend without field work.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
August 7, 2022 9:02 am

I’m surprised you are on this site and don’t know her story, of being attacked by the climate Scientologists for daring to point out that polies don’t seem to be dying off.
Her story is very instructive.
She did not question AWG of that arctic sea ice was dwindling, she merely pointed out the bears were doing great, contrary to “settled science”.

John Hultquist
August 7, 2022 9:29 am

Thank Susan.
Beautiful animals.

Reply to  John Hultquist
August 7, 2022 11:40 am

Love the one on my wall. Hunted with a legal tag by an Inuit in Saluit. I had expressed interest in a bearskin a year or so before. What arrived was a frozen bundle and boy did I have to find a taxidermist fast.

Rick C
August 7, 2022 11:07 am

So it seems the arctic Polar Bears are doing just fine and, per the previous WUWT post, the tropical Great Barrier Reef is also doing just fine. So if global climate change has failed to produce the prognosticated catastrophes – i.e. the coal mine canaries are still singing – in the extremes of warm and cold climates, where exactly is the problem? Maybe we should expect the temperate climates of the mid-latitudes to become extremely temperate since “climate change” makes all weather more extreme.

August 7, 2022 11:14 am

Very informative.

August 7, 2022 3:43 pm

I think maybe in the near future the climate screamers will become endangered due to overstressing. I think they should all be rounded up and tagged, then relocated to live with the polar bears. One of those two groups will survive, the other methinks not so much.

Ireneusz Palmowski
August 8, 2022 12:55 pm

The extent of ice in the Beaufort Sea is growing.
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Ireneusz Palmowski
August 8, 2022 12:58 pm

The Canadian Arctic is also getting colder.
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