Churchill Polar Bears and Dogs Playing

Video of Polar Bears and Dogs Playing




Despite their fearsome reputation as “Lords of the Arctic”, killing and eating everything in sight, polar bears have their kinder, gentler side.

A Churchill resident, Brian Ladoon, discovered an aspect of polar bear whimsy when bears began visiting his sled dogs, which are staked out on a lake shore outside of town. Ladoon is working to save the Canadian sled dog breed from extinction, raising and feeding them outdoors to ensure their ruggedness as working dogs in the Arctic.

He feeds them caribou and seal, irresistible morsels for polar bears too. So it was no surprise when bears began showing up to pick over the scraps left by the dogs. But what happened next confounded almost anyone who had ever lived and traveled in the Arctic, always needing to be wary of wandering polar bears.

Polar Bears and Dogs Playing?

One day a bear wandered across the frozen lake to one of Ladoon’s dogs. Instead of threatening the bear or barking, the dog wagged his tail, then dog and bear and touched noses. Another large bear wandered over to another nearby dog and they began to roughhouse like puppies.

Interspecies play is relatively rare, though not unknown. Dogs are well-known social animals, and, until relatively recently, polar bears were thought to be solitary, coming together in maturity only to mate. Anyone who has been to Churchill to view the polar bears can tell you of the playing and sparring that is commonly seen in the fall as the bears wait for Hudson Bay to freeze. But it’s astounding to see polar bears and dogs playing, their mutual rivalries and animosities parked, at least on a small frozen lake near Churchill.

Here are some other articles you may enjoy (will open in new window):

Climate Change: The Next Generation: “The (Polar) Bear Facts,” Checked: Right wing New York Post attempting to smear Charles Monnett's polar bear paper with its usual lies

The (Polar) Bear Facts,” Checked by Shauna Theel, Media Matters, August 15, 2011

[Editor's Note: This is a related article to a news item reported on this site: Scientist May Be Endangered for Publishing Wrong Polar Bear Facts

In response to the suspension of federal scientist Charles Monnett, author of a 2006 article documenting polar bear deaths, conservative media have tried to dismiss the threat posed to polar bears by global warming. On Sunday, a New York Post editorial claimed Monnett's paper “led directly to the 2008 classification of the bears as a 'threatened' species, whose survival is allegedly at risk due to global warming.” The editorial, titled “The (polar) bear facts,” concluded that there is “no need to weep for 'threatened' polar bears just yet – nor, especially, for the planet.”

In fact, the Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that “the polar bear is threatened throughout its entire range by ongoing and projected changes in sea ice habitat” was based on a comprehensive evaluation of “the best available scientific and commercial information on polar bear habitat and projected effects of various factors (including climate change) on the quantity and distribution of polar bear habitat.”

Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity stated in response to Sen. James Inhofe's claim that Monnett's paper provided “the foundation” for the FWS determination: “That paper was one of literally hundreds of scientific articles cited in the listing.”

Indeed, the determination cites many studies documenting how the “observed declines in the extent of Arctic sea ice” has and will affect polar bears, for instance:

Many researchers over the past 40 years have predicted an array of impacts to polar bears from climatic change that include adverse effects on denning, food chain disruption, and prey availability (Budyko 1966, p. 20; Lentfer 1972, p. 169; Tynan and DeMaster 1997, p. 315; Stirling and Derocher 1993, pp. 241-244).

Stirling and Derocher (1993, p. 240) first noted changes, such as declining body condition, lowered reproductive rates, and reduced cub survival, in polar bears in western Hudson Bay; they attributed these changes to a changing ice environment. Subsequently, Stirling et al. (1999, p. 303) established a statistically significant link between climate change in western Hudson Bay, reduced ice presence, and observed declines in polar bear physical and reproductive parameters, including body condition (weight) and natality. More recently Stirling and Parkinson (2006, p. 266) established a statistically significant decline in weights of lone and suspected pregnant adult female polar bears in western Hudson Bay between 1988 and 2004. Reduced body weights of adult females during fall have been correlated with subsequent declines in cub survival (Atkinson and Ramsay 1995, p. 559; Derocher and Stirling 1996, p. 1,250; Derocher and Wiig 2002, p. 347).

The Post editorial also falsely suggested that a recent study raises doubt about the basic fact that “carbon-dioxide emissions trap heat in the atmosphere” and falsely claimed that “climategate” showed scientists “fudg[ing] the facts.”

Current Arctic Sea Ice Resumes Decline

two polar bears

©2011 Randy Green

After slowing in July, the current Arctic sea ice melt-rate has increased, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Current Arctic sea ice levels has profound implications for polar bear habitat.

The NSIDC reports that though the melt-rate is increasing dramatically as of mid-August, the sea ice extent has not reached the record low of 2007. However, the southern route of the Northwest Passage seems to be open and free of ice.

In other measurements, the Arctic se ice volume is estimated to be below 2007 levels, and possibly at record lows. Sea ice volume is estimated using computer models combining sea ice thickness with the area, or extent of  the sea ice.

One reason volume is important is that the thinner the ice cap, the more susceptible the sea ice is to disappearing, should melt rates again be above normal in future summers.

As Arctic sea ice shrinks, it exposes more of the sea surface to solar radiation. Since open water is darker and absorbs the sunlight that would normally reflect from the white ice surface, sea temperatures will rise, further melting the ice. The disappearance of sea ice is thought by many scientists to be a significant factor in increased global warming.

And, when the extent of sea ice diminishes, it removes much of the habitat used by polar bear populations that spend much of their time in the High Arctic. In addition, Arctic sea ice extent affects the entire Arctic ecosystem, including the seal populations upon which the polar bears depend as their main food source.

Read more about current Arctic sea ice conditions at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Scientist May be Endangered for Publishing Wrong Polar Bear Facts

Polar bear swimming with sea ice

Polar bear swimming in sea ice in Russia's Chukchi Sea --Photo ©Randy Green

Was a U.S. government scientist suspended recently for publishing allegedly wrong polar bear facts?

According to a recent article posted on Live Science, Charles Monnet, a biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, (BOEMRE), was suspended in July pending the outcome of an investigation over “integrity issues”. He had been questioned in February by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General regarding an article he published in 2006 in the scientific publication Polar Biology. In that article he reported a spate of sightings of drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea. The finding was subsequently included in Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”.

BOEMRE was formerly called the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which gained notoriety recently during the BP oil spill in the Gulf as the regulatory agency overseeing offshore drilling.

“Listen, we, we work for an agency that is, especially then, extremely hostile to the concept of climate change, that’s hostile to the idea that there’s any effects of anything we do on anything.”

While a spokeswoman for BOEMRE denied that Monnet’s suspension was due to his publishing the account of the drowned polar bears, a number of individuals and organizations have questioned the motive behind the suspension. Live Science reports Monnet as saying “Listen, we, we work for an agency that is, especially then, extremely hostile to the concept of climate change, that’s hostile to the idea that there’s any effects of anything we do on anything.”, in large measure because they are responsible for permitting oil and gas drilling.

The Public Employees for Environmental Resonsibility (PEER), a non-profit advocacy group for public employees in resource management agencies, has complained about Monnet’s suspension, but though BOEMRE has denied it had anything to do with his Polar Biology paper, they have refused to even notify Monnet why he was being suspended.

Read more of this article in Live Science: Polar Bear Researcher Suspended, Spurring Alarm






Knut the Polar Bear Leaves Behind a $140 Million Business

So Knut the polar bear, recently deceased denizen at the Berlin Zoo, supposedly leaves behind a $140 million business.

And I’ll bet he never went to business school.

Knut was born at the zoo in December 2006 and was hand-raised by zookeepers when his mother abandoned him. He quickly became a media star, the public falling in love with his overwhelming cuteness as a cub. He died just this last March from what turned out to be viral encephalitis, or an infection of the brain. He was only four years old (polar bears often live 30 years in captivity).

The 167 year-old Berlin Zoo, listed on the German stock exchange, is a for-profit business and during the few short years that Knut was a star attraction, the zoo took in some $30 million in tickets and other revenue. In fact, Gerald Uhlich, former chief executive of the zoo who helped create the Brand of Knut, judges that Knut the polar bear generated more than $140 million in worldwide business.

The zoo tried to license the Knut brand only to environmentally-sensitive organizations and to help promote awareness of global warming, but Uhlich encouraged the zoo to do more to profit from the home-grown bear. The zoo is reportedly reluctant to do so and Knut the brand may follow Knut the polar bear into the hereafter.

Aside from profiting from a live (or dead, for that matter) bear, the controversy brings up the role of zoos in modern society. Should the Berlin zoo be profiting from Knut the polar bear in death or life? Certainly profits from the brand help the zoo become less dependent on funding from the city of Berlin, its chief benefactor. But does such huge profitability potentially corrupt a zoo’s mission of conservation and education?

What do you think? Should Knut the polar bear be promoted in the afterlife? Leave your comments below.

Funny Bears Have Fun with Camera

 Funny bears have fun with camera

Despite their reputation as dangerous predators to be avoided while on your morning tundra stroll, polar bears can be hilarious when their curiosity is aroused.

The folks at the BBC found this out when they tried to disguise a spy camera to photograph two bears in the wilds of Spitsbergen (Svalbard). The funny bears made short work of the high-tech camera on this You Tube clip.

Putin Bans Polar Bear Hunt in Russia

Longtime polar bear advocate and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has banned polar bear hunting in that country for this year, due to concern over declining numbers of bears.

A joint agreement between the US and Russia over polar bear hunt quotas allocated 29 bears per year to be taken in both Russia and the United States by native peoples of both countries, but this has been waived in Russia for this year. the joint agreement has been praised by environmental groups as a positive step to give the polar bears “breathing room” to recover their numbers.

Last year, Putin took part in a polar bear study program with a team of scientists and has also participated in a study of gray whales in the Pacific waters off the coast of the Russian Far East.

For more on this topic, visit the Seattle PI’s Russia bans endangered polar bear hunt this year.