Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/8/2009 (4058 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TOO many cool, wet days resulted in a lousy summer -- but you won't find any polar bears complaining.
The cooler-than-usual summer produced thicker ice on Hudson Bay, giving the area's polar bear population several extra days to feed on tasty ringed seals.
"This is the time of year when polar bears eat the most, and the ringed seals are so full of fat and energy," said Daryll Hedman, the northeast regional wildlife manager for Manitoba Conservation.
Hedman said polar bears stay on the Hudson Bay ice for as long as possible so they can feed, adding this year the ice was so thick the bears stayed out for an extra two weeks.
That's resulted in fatter, healthier bears this summer, Hedman said, adding, however, the development is not likely a long-term trend.
"It's probably a blip," Hedman said of the thicker ice and cooler temperatures.
He said polar bears that wandered into Churchill this season appeared fatter and healthier than in past years. "Every bear we handled (in Churchill) was in amazing good shape," Hedman said.
Canada is home to about two-thirds of the world's polar bears but scientists warn populations are starting to dwindle because of thawing sea ice, over-hunting, industrial activity and increased toxins in the food chain.
While experts say this summer is an anomaly and doesn't mean the mammals are no longer under threat, University of Alberta biology professor Andrew Derocher said it bodes well for the coming winter on Hudson Bay.
"Even just one or two weeks out on the sea ice can make a difference in how many seals they kill and how much fat they're able to store on their bodies," said Derocher, the former chair of a polar bear specialist group run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"A respite from the long-term conditions is certainly good news," Derocher said. "We're talking about global change here. This is just one summer."
In other parts of the Arctic, temperatures continue to be warmer than usual, scientists point out.
Robert Buchanan, head of Polar Bear International, said polar bears are still threatened by changing environmental conditions.
"The overall prognosis for bears on a worldwide basis still remains dim at best," Buchanan told the Canadian Press in an interview from Alaska. "This (summer in Hudson Bay) is an aberration."
-- With files from Canadian Press
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.