This is the usual time for polar bear visits to northern Newfoundland but this one had a sad ending. The bear that came ashore at Deep Cove (where some of the action in EATEN takes place, near the artist studio pictured in the CTV report shown above) on Fogo Island (map below) had to be shot by RCMP due to fears for public safety.
Maps and quotes from the CTV report below: Continue reading
This post has been reblogged from PolarBearScience.
Incidents of polar bears causing problems onshore this winter (January & February) – including one that killed a horse in Greenland and another that threatened a resident in western Hudson Bay (only weeks after several incidents in southern Labrador) may be the tip of a very scary iceberg. I’ve taken a look at what records exist of this phenomenon, which in the past often involved deadly attacks. The large number of reports this winter appears to be a real increase, which is a rather terrifying prospect indeed.
In winter, all polar bears except females in dens nursing newborn cubs are presumed by biologists to be on the sea ice hunting but it turns out that is not quite true. Although relatively rare over the last twenty years or so, it appears that in some areas, bears are now coming ashore in winter.
The photo above shows a polar bear photographed by a remote camera installed at Broad River Camp, Wapusk National Park, western Hudson Bay on 7 February 2013. It was visible to the camera for 40 minutes but apparently caused no trouble (camera installed and maintained by associate professor Doug Clark from the University of Saskatchewan and colleagues).
Given the fact that there are now many more polar bears than there were in the 1970s as well as more people living in many coastal Arctic communities, problems with bears in winter are likely to increase, as this winter’s events show. More bears out on the ice in winter (January-March) will almost certainly create more competition for the little bit of food that’s available (seals are hard to catch in winter), which means some bears might increasingly be looking for alternate sources of food onshore.
This post has been reblogged from PolarBearScience.
The harp seal is the most abundant seal species in the northern hemisphere (estimated to number more than 9 million animals – that’s more harps than ringed seals) but are found only in the North Atlantic. Partly because they give birth on mobile pack ice, harps have their pups earlier in the season than all other Arctic seals, which means that in some regions, they are a critical food source for polar bears that have eaten little over the winter months.
Although young ringed seals are considered the primary prey of polar bears throughout the Arctic, young harp seals undoubtedly represent an increasingly important resource for populations of Davis Strait, East Greenland and Kara Sea bears.
Most of the harp seals in the NW Atlantic/Atlantic Canada (about 80% of them) have their pups off Newfoundland and Labrador, an area known as the “Front” (the location of my polar bear attack novel, EATEN). Harps seals at the Front now provide a huge prey base for polar bears of the large (and possibly still growing) Davis Strait subpopulation (photo below courtesy DFO Canada).
There are an estimated 7.4 million harps in Atlantic Canada today (range 6.5-8.3m), an exponential increase over the early 1980s, when perhaps only half a million so remained. Pagophilus groenlandicus was assigned a conservation status of ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Red List in June last year (Kovacs 2015), when it was estimated that the global population size of the harp seal was greater than 9 million animals and probably growing1, 2 due to reduced human hunting:
“…harp seals have been harvested for thousands of years but currently the population is large and the number of animals harvested is declining.” [my bold]
Photographers and animial rights activists love cute, fluffy harp seal pups and rarely mention the carnage that goes on in spring as polar bears devour the naive youngsters. See the video below (from 2008), for an example of the cuteness factor.
For the rest of this month, ebook versions of EATEN available through Smashwords (ePub and pdf; for Kobo, Apple, Nook readers) will be on sale for $1.99.
Go to Smashwords here
Enter code YQ69W (not case-sensitive)
$1.99 — 60% off
(see Amazon reviews here)
This is exciting. I’ve just made a deal with the primary distributor of books and magazines across Newfoundland and Labrador to carry the paperback version of EATEN.
It’s rare for a self-published novel to get into brick-and-mortar stores in a big way but this distributor is convinced my polar bear attack thriller will be a good seller with locals and tourists alike.
This means that within a few weeks, EATEN could be available across the province, even in small towns that don’t have dedicated bookstores – local general stores and groceries, as well as pharmacies that usually carry books and magazines.
Just in time for the tourist trade that starts in April and May (for viewing icebergs).
Interest will likely be high in the area after an interview with me was published in several local newspapers at the end of January (originally in the Northern Pen out of St. Anthony on the 25th, as shown below; reprinted later in The Labradorian and The Pilot (out of Lewisporte), which serves the region that includes Fogo Island, where much of the action in EATEN takes place).
That Northern Pen interview was done before news of a polar bear onshore on Fogo Island was reported in late January and before multiple bears onshore on the Labrador coast between mid-January and early February came to light. Polar bear awareness is high across the province – perfect timing for my polar bear attack novel to hit local bookshelves.
Finally, we have further details from the CBC on the report earlier this week of polar bears seen in several coastal Labrador communities, in what must be some of the earliest sightings ever documented. Statements from witnesses reveal that the polar bears weren’t just on shore, they were brazenly prowling around people’s homes looking for food – in the dead of winter.
UPDATE: 7 February 2016. In an interview earlier today (listen here), one of the oddest explanations I’ve heard for the recent polar bear sightings was offered by Newfoundland and Labrador Minister responsible for wildlife Perry Trimper. He stated: “…climate change does play a roll here [in the increased number of sightings].”
I’ve listened to the interview six times and still have no idea what he’s talking about. This is not a range expansion caused by “climate change” – polar bears have always come as far south as Newfoundland. In fact, they used to be far more common than they have been over the last centuries (known from at least the 1500s in Newfoundland and the 1700s in Labrador, although there is no evidence they ever stayed over the summer). But polar bears did not formerly, as far as I am aware, come ashore in frightening numbers in January/early February.
When the size of a population declines, its range contracts: the simplest explanation for seeing bears onshore this early in the season is that there are many more bears and that the few late 20th century records of polar bear sightings in this region reflected an over-hunted population that has only recently recovered. See below for more (and PolarBearScience post here).
UPDATE: 19 February 2016. A horse was killed by a polar bear in SW Greenland on 18 February, the second incident in two days of polar bears causing problems onshore in Greenland. Details here.
Atlantic Sea Ice Could Grow in the Next Decade: Changing ocean circulation in the North Atlantic could lead to winter sea ice coverage remaining steady and even growing in select regions.
So states a summary of winter sea ice modelling by Stephen Yeager and colleagues (2015) just published in EOS (newsletter of the American Geophysical Union) by Lily Strelich.
“They [Yeager and colleagues] found that decadal-scale trends in Arctic winter sea ice extent are largely explained by changes in ocean circulation rather than by large-scale external factors like anthropogenic warming….” [my bold]
One fact Strelich does not mention is that the predictions made by Yeager and colleagues extend to 2023 and that their predictions included ice levels off Labrador and northern Newfoundland (the Labrador Sea). Read the rest of her EOS summary here.
Note this is winter (January-March) sea ice being discussed, which adds to previous predictions (Swart et al. 2015) that the current hiatus of summer (July–September) sea ice extent (evident from 2007 to at least 2015) could last another decade or more – a point I raised in EATEN and therefore listed in its Recommended Reading. See map below for what recent winter sea ice looked like in the Atlantic (at 8 March 2014). Continue reading