11/15/2012 6:40:23 PM

Then, Now, and the Future

As I traveled home from the shores of Hudson Bay last week, I was struck by a bout of nostalgia. I reflected on when the bears will leave and reminisced that they were pretty much gone by early November when I first came to Churchill in 1984. I wondered how the bears are going to fare over the coming months and remembered how fat and sassy they used to be. I remembered how the denning area south of town used to be brimming with chubby pregnant females waiting for the next generation to arrive; this year I was shocked at how few families were about.

My trip to Churchill in 2012 was unsettling. The bears were in OK shape for the most part but there were very few mothers with young. There is no scientific data to support an increase in the harvest from eight to 24 bears scheduled for this autumn as the bears leave Manitoba and migrate into Nunavut. An aerial survey from 2011 reported that only 3% of the animals observed were yearlings. The absence of subadults this year was evident. Recruitment to the population is at dangerously low levels—not enough cubs are surviving to sustain it.

It seems that we're at a crossroad. The disaster wrought by Superstorm Sandy seems to have awakened some to the challenges global warming will bring to humanity. These sorts of events are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity with global warming. Similarly, the frequency of years with extremely long ice-free periods in Hudson Bay will increase. The consequences for the bears will be dire.

Nonetheless, I was re-invigorated by the vibrant and dedicated crew that PBI has assembled. The work that PBI has done is simply amazing. The science of global warming is so very clear and the actions undertaken by PBI to spread the word are incredible. Virtually every thinking person understands that polar bears are threatened by global warming. Now the job is to get every thinking person to do their part to reduce greenhouse gases.

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