Polar bears heading out onto rapidly forming Arctic sea ice

In spite of all the headlines about the dearth of Arctic ice it seems that polar bears are not too worried. They are heading out onto the rapidly growing ice in a “mass exodus” to hunt for their seals about a week ahead of  schedule. 

Polar Bear Science reports that:

It appears from the ice maps that most of the polar bears throughout the world that have chosen to remain on land during the late summer and fall (about July/August through October/November) can now return to the ice. …

… polar bear watchers in and around Churchill Manitoba (in Western Hudson Bay) are reporting an exodus of polar bears to the sea ice that is rapidly forming offshore. While it appears from the ice map …. that only a narrow strip of sea ice has formed close to shore, this is apparently quite enough for the bears to move off the land and out to sea. Once on the ice, polar bears will start hunting for seals.

The same phenomenon is likely true all over the Arctic – ice forming near shore may not be showing up on the satellite images (e.g. western Russia, Svalbard) but it will be enough to get polar bears off land and back out to sea where they can hunt. ….

…. Kelsey says that the “bay froze about a week earlier than last year” [earlier is good] and reports that polar bears are eagerly moving offshore onto the newly-formed ice.  Sounds like the folks there to promote “Polar Bear Week” won’t find many bears to point cameras at.

Polar Bear Alley also reports:

This whole season has been about a week ahead of last year so it is not a real surprise that the bay froze about a week earlier than last year. Yesterday, we watched the mass exodus of polar bears out onto the sea ice. Most of the day consisted of yellow bear butts wobbling and weaving out towards the floe edge.

Over the past week, there have been daily highs around minus 10-15C and some fairly consistent north winds. This combination is all we need for the ice to freeze along Cape Churchill. From wind and greasy waves last Thursday to a thin band of ice along the shore by Saturday, you could see the end was near.

Most years though a late season south wind ‘saves’ bear season but this wind arrived about a day or two late this year, the ice is now locked in from what I can see. By Monday, ice floes clung to the shore and the smaller bays near Churchill were almost locked in. A north wind that night and the next day then sealed the deal.

Yesterday, there was a constant stream of polar bears crossing Cape Merry, the point between town and the Churchill River. Polar Bear Alert officers hazed some of them to speed their departure but really, once the ice is here, there is not much incentive to stay around. By 3pm, you could see twelve bears out on the ice between Eskimo Point to the west and Miss Piggy beach. ……

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