Death on Ice

By Jim McVeagh 10/12/2009

Remember the oft repeated picture of the two polar bears forlornly stuck on an ice floe in the middle of nowhere? Turns out that the photographer who took the picture was more interested in the interesting shape of the ice floe and the picture was taken within a couple of hundred meters of the arctic shore line. The bears were in no danger at all.

Enter Polar bear panic picture Mark II…

Polar Bear

Now this is not as cute are the previous picture. And the headlines…

Polar bears’ fate worsens

New pictures show that polar bears are beginning to cannibalise each other as global warming destroys hunting grounds.

The images, taken in Hudson Bay, Canada, around 321km north of Churchill, Manitoba, show a male polar bear carrying the bloodied head of a polar bear cub it has killed for food.

Polar bears usually subsist on seals, which they hunt from a platform of sea ice.

But the melting of sea ice as a result of rising global temperatures has made it more difficult for polar bears to hunt seals at sea, confining the bears to land.

This has led to malnourishment and starvation as polar bears are unable to build sufficient fat reserves for winter.

Drowning is also more common as bears are forced to swim further out to sea to find food.

That is the entire Herald article but there are many similar ones floating round the international media. The Herald does not carry the picture – I had to go and find it

I was curious when I saw that the Herald had not included a nice, gory picture – normally the staple of newspapers. When I found it, I understood why.

Does this look like a starving bear to you? Yeah, me neither. Makes me want to ask questions like:

QUESTION: Is it normal behaviour for adult bears to kill and eat their young? (I know male lions do this when taking over a pride – it brings the females into heat immediately)

ANSWER: Yes, This is normal behaviour according to the Inuit and the experts. There is no evidence that this is on the increase, only speculation.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that polar bears are finding it harder to hunt?

ANSWER: No, but they may hunt less at sea and substitute land-based food sources. For instance polar bears have been known to hunt bird eggs. They are perfectly happy to eat carrion. Clearly, they are very adaptable creatures. Even if sea ice completely disappears, the chances are that polar bears will survive. Although they may come into more contact with humans and that is far more likely to render them extinct!

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that polar bears are malnourished?

ANSWER: Well they did find a Mother and her cub starved to death in 2007. A mother. And a cub. Inuits say that the polar bear population in Alaska has grown immensely, which may explain any signs of starvation in the local alaskan population.  I did manage to locate one piece of research that thought the bears in their local study area were “nutritionally stressed” (though they did not report cannibalism!) – but they were unable to say whether this was due to poor seal numbers or deficient sea ice. (Stirling, I, Richardson, E. , Thiemann, G.W. , Derocher, A.E  Unusual predation attempts of polar bears on ringed seals in the Southern Beaufort Sea: Possible significance of changing spring ice conditions Arctic 61: 1; 2008; 14-22).

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that polar bears are drowning?

ANSWER: Again, four polar bears were found drowned in 2004 but nil since – except for a couple of bears that were tranquillized and drowned, proving once again that humans are considerably better at direct means of extinction than all this mucking about with carbon dioxide.

It does appear that, once again, the current meme of dying polar bears needs no facts to bolster it, just hysterical assertions.

I welcome actual evidence to the contrary. I have searched the Auckland University databases with no luck and I find the lack of real evidence appalling, considering the emotive mileage being made out of it by environmentalists.


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