Interpreting abundant polar bear sightings on the East Coast as an overview of sea ice loss is preposterous – Is it augmented with that?

By Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford,

Last week, a senior producer at CBC News, to prepare a story in time for ‘Earth Day’, tried to explain the high number of polar bear sightings this April. in Newfoundland and Labradorcompared with the past two years, as a result of climate change and the loss of Arctic sea ice.

Title: ‘With an extinction threat looming, it’s no surprise that polar bears are on our doorsteps – and on rooftops: there’s a grim reason why polar bears are so frequent in the mountains. coastal communities’. CBC News, April 23, 2022

The problem with this story is that the East Coast has a massive reduction in sea ice in 2021 and hardly see polar bears in Newfoundland and not in Labrador. There is more ice in 2020 than in 2021 but also some bears. This year, Ice extent similar to 2020 for most areas but seen by polar bears has increased significantly.

In fact, the two years with the most polar bear sightings and problems since 2008 were 2017 and 2018: in 2017sea ​​ice is especially thick in April (although it’s average) and By June the sea of ​​ice is too thick and endured that the Newfoundland fishing fleet could not come out for the opening of spring; 2018 was another year in terms of average sea ice and even larger quantity more sightings than in 2017, especially in Newfoundland (Crockford 2019:32). This suggests that the correlation between sea ice and polar bears on the East Coast since 2008 – if any – may be the opposite of what was stated in the CBC article: less ice generally means less bears on shore than in Newfoundland and Labrador and often more ice means more bears.

The premise of the paper is based on two opinions: an eight-year-old quote by polar bear expert Andrew Derocher, outlining his view of the relationship between sea ice decline and possible population decline polar bears, and the opinion of a polar bear defender from the community of Black tick (as a Canadian Ranger, not a scientist), the spectacles this year increased due to climate change.

this is a Excerpts:

Polar bears have been stressed with ice loss, with some researchers having raised concerns for years about the possibility of extinction.

“Clearly, you change the sea ice, you affect the bears,” said Andrew Derocher, a professor at the University of Alberta and the Polar Bear Authority, told CBC News in 2016.

“Only so far can you push them. At some point, there isn’t enough sea ice for them to exist in an area, and we expect them to disappear. “

The crisis affecting the polar bears has been going on for years, and communities living near the sea ice have grown accustomed to longtime visitors. Consider Black Tickle, a small fishing community in southern Labrador, a few miles from St. Anthony is not far away.

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

It’s clearly a change of pace for humans and bears. This season, polar bears have been spotted far from the coast, says Keefe. “We’ve got polar bears really going through the trails, through the woods, because they’re brought 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 levels at the end of February 2015 (when Keefe mentioned that Black Tickle had a similar number of polar bear visits in 2022) was above averagewhich I pointed out at that time (tape chart below for February 25, 2015):

inside February 25, 2015 CBC story on polar bear visit to Black Tickle, Keefe says nothing about climate change:

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

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

Now there is news that Black Tickle is a popular destination for polar bears.

Last year, Keefe estimated 28 bears passed through the area.

As Keefe mentioned, Black Tickle has many The problem arose in early March 2014when the Labrador outer ice is also above average (band chart below for March 3, 2014):

Keefe is also quoted by CBC in early February 2016 relating to a series polar bear problem in several communities along the Labrador coast, including Black Tickle since late January, but that time he blamed the problem vast sea ice:

“The only thing I can guess is that there is a lot of sea ice, so I guess they are moving earlier… they are just waiting around the sea ice so they can go out and meet the seals.”

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

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

However, the next day (February 7, 2016), the provincial minister responsible for wildlife in Labrador and Newfoundland, emphasized in a radio interview that … Climate change plays some role here [in the increased number of sightings].

Later that spring, Derocher endorsed his climate change message. Several times since then, Mr. Keefe has cited climate change to explain polar bear sightings in Labrador. It’s funny how that works.

March sea ice summary vs polar bear sightings 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022

In 2017, when sea ice was moderate across the East Coast and polar bear sightings were common in Newfoundland and Labrador:

In 2018, when sea ice was only slightly below average off southern Labrador, polar bear sightings were abundant in Newfoundland, especially (although less in Labrador):

In 2020, when sea ice was just slightly below average across the East Coast and almost no people saw polar bears in Newfoundland and Labrador:

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

In 2022, when sea ice is average for most of the region and there are plenty of polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador:

Why is this silly? CBC fragment even written? The clue in the last line:

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

At least the article comes with this warning:

Our planet is changing. So does our press. This column is part of the CBC News initiative “Our Changing Planet” to present and explain the impacts of climate change.


Crockford, SJ 2019. Polar Bear Status Report 2018. Global Warming Policy Organization Report 32, London. pdf this.

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