Inuit: Bears ‘Catch Seals Even If The Ice Is Really Thin’
Scientists: ‘Unlikely Polar Bears Are At Risk From AGW’
Image source: York et al., 2016, Journal of Ecology and Evolution.
Most of the world’s polar bears live in Canada. Hunters and elders from northern Canada’s native communities have been immersed in studying polar bear ecology for centuries.
In two new peer-reviewed papers published in the journals Ecology and Evolution and Polar Record, scientists record the observations and experiences of Canada’s polar bear “experts” — the community members who live side-by-side with these “sea bears” (Ursus maritimus).
According to scientists, no study has indicated that there is a reason to presume that the perspectives of community observers are either suspect or incorrect. In fact, there have been multiple occasions when traditional ecological knowledge gleaned from local populations accurately identified polar bear subpopulation trends before new scientific studies could be conducted to corroborate them (York et al., 2016).
The overwhelming conclusion from years of accumulated conversations with native populations about polar bears is that there is almost no connection between the long-term observations of polar bear ecology and the more recent claims that polar bears as a species are in grave danger due to climate change and thinning sea ice.
In fact, the long-term observations suggest that polar bear subpopulations are currently faring quite well, with 92% of the subpopulations studied either remaining stable or growing in recent years.
According to Inuit observers, there may even be “too many” bears now.
Furthermore, the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) gleaned from local populations affirms that polar bears do not need thickened sea ice to hunt seals, as they can “catch seals even if the ice is really thin” (Wong et al., 2017).
The recent observations of polar bears eating land-based food, or eating out of garbage bins, is not evidence that they are hungrier and more desperate due to climate change. According to community observers, it is quite “typical” for polar bears to forage for land-based food (and garbage), as they are opportunists when it comes to food sources. Polar bears have been consuming land-based food well before there was concern about thinning sea ice and climate change.
A bold conclusion from York et al. (2016) is that, given the paleoclimate record of much warmer (+4 to +7.5 °C) Arctic and much more reduced sea ice thickness and extent in the past relative to today, “it seems unlikely that polar bears (as a species) are at risk from anthropogenic global warming.”
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