Live Broadcasts of Polar Bears Along Churchill’s Hudson Bay Give Scientists, Students and Global Audiences a Chance to Witness the Challenges Facing a Species and Habitat
12th Annual Polar Bear Week Showcase Myriad of New Studies and Expanded Programs for Bear Safety and Coexistence Programs around the Globe
CHURCHILL, CANADA – October 27, 2023 – Polar Bears International (PBI), the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to polar bears and Arctic sea ice, announces the return of Polar Bear Week, taking place October 29 - November 4, 2023. This annual event aims to celebrate the Arctic, raise global awareness about polar bears and their changing environment, advance coexistence initiatives, and inspire action for a better future for polar bears and people.
“Polar bears and northern communities are on the front lines of climate change and face the challenges of a rapidly warming landscape,” says Krista Wright, executive director of Polar Bears International. “During Polar Bear Week, we’re honored to continue our collaboration with the town of Churchill on Polar Bear Smart initiatives which can be used across the Arctic, while also sharing polar bears with the world, connecting with communities and classrooms to inspire a brighter future. For polar bears and people, we must work collectively to coexist with each other and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change.”
Polar Bear Week coincides with the annual gathering of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, who wait for Hudson Bay’s sea ice to freeze so they can return to the ice to hunt seals. Churchill, known as the polar bear capital of the world, is home to the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation, which has declined 27% in the past five years. The greatest threat to polar bears is sea ice loss due to human-caused climate warming, as they rely on the sea ice to hunt and survive.
Longer ice-free seasons are forcing polar bears in many parts of the Arctic to spend more time on land, where they must fast, and in turn are having increased encounters with humans. Investment in coexistence initiatives is critical to minimize conflict between people and polar bears. The town of Churchill is collaborating with Polar Bears International on becoming the world’s first Polar Bear Smart Community, developing initiatives that can serve as a model for other northern communities, including installing bear-proof garbage bins and developing protocols for the use of nonlethal deterrence tools. Churchill has a community-led Churchill Bear Smart Working Group, which includes key stakeholders from the town and province. During Polar Bear Week, the Group will release a polar bear safety video, aimed to educate visitors on how to stay safe in polar bear country.
Polar Bears International is working to protect the world’s existing polar bears through coexistence initiatives across the Arctic, including the “Wapusk Project” with Cree communities in Ontario, which focuses on customized, community-driven conflict reduction, in partnership with the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, and York University. PBI also distributes educational coloring books, available in regional languages, to communities across the Arctic to foster awareness and coexistence, and has started collaborating with the Ny-Ȧlesund community on Svalbard, Norway on safety materials, deterrence tools, and training.
Coexistence technology and educational initiatives happening during Polar Bear Week include:
Detect and Protect: “Bear-dar”: Polar Bears International is in its final year of training the “SpotterRF” AI radar system to detect bears and alert communities, day or night. PBI is working with the University of Alberta to fine-tune the system’s AI, and plans to make Bear-dar available for use by government partners next year.
The Churchill Bear Smart Working Group will release a new polar bear safety video.
As the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference approaches, there have been several recent studies connecting the future of polar bears to fossil fuels:
For the first time, scientists quantified a direct link between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear survival. This August 2023 report in Science provides emissions attribution, which is critical within policy and sustainable development frameworks.
As sea ice disappears and polar bears spend more time on land, polar bear moms are stopping producing milk for their cubs or producing less energetically-rich milk for their cubs, according to an October 2023 report analyzing data from Western Hudson Bay.
As industry expands in the Arctic, den-detection tools are critical to keep moms and cubs safe during the most vulnerable time of their lives, but the energy industry’s tool, aerial FLIR, only detects 45% of dens. A new report promising reveals the results of Synthetic Aperture Radar as a new tool, with it detecting 66% of polar bear signatures.
How people can get involved in Polar Bear Week:
Watch Polar Bear Live Cams: powered by explore.org, the largest live nature network in the world, along with Polar Bears International, Frontiers North Adventures, Parks Canada, and the Churchill Northern Studies Center. There are several live cams, including some mounted on Tundra Buggies® driving around Wapusk National Park, and they offer a window into the polar bear’s world, with close-up views of moms snuggling cubs, males sparring, and young bears testing the ice along the shore. You can also play Polar Bear Bingo while you watch the cams!
Tune into Tundra Connections to chat with polar bear scientists and experts. Tundra Connections webcasts are live streamed from Churchill to hundreds of thousands of viewers, facilitating discussions about polar bears and climate action. Highlights from the schedule include:
Living on Land Has Its Limits: Lactation, Starvation, and Survival: Join Alysa McCall and Louise Archer on October 31 at 2 pm ET
Virtual Field Trip on the Tundra: Build the Change with LEGO and Discovery Education on Nov 2 at 11 ET: register here
Community Connections: Churchill's Relationship with Polar Bears, learning how Indigenous people have coexisted with polar bears in the past and present, and what their vision is for the future, taking place on November 9 at noon ET
Watch a video about the “Detect to Protect” initiative.
Take Polar Bears International’s Protect Polar Bears and People fundraising challenge and invite your friends and family to get involved in a cause you are passionate about.
Donate to Help Polar Bears and Support Coexistence Efforts - your gift will help polar bears and people live safely with each other while also supporting PBI’s other conservation efforts across the Arctic.
As Arctic sea ice loss means most polar bears are likely to disappear by 2100 unless we shift away from burning fossil fuels, Dr. Flavio Lehner, chief climate scientist at Polar Bears International and assistant professor in Earth and Atmospheric Science at Cornell University, notes, “In order to halt the declining sea ice trend and ensure stable conditions for polar bear survival, we must prioritize systemic change to produce energy and products in carbon-neutral ways and for rapid, sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Outside of Polar Bear Week, Polar Bears International focuses on conservation efforts year-round and relies on global support to make the most impact.
About Polar Bears International
Polar Bears International’s mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. The organization works to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate. Polar Bears International is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to wild polar bears and Arctic sea ice, and the staff includes scientists who study wild polar bears. The organization is a recognized leader in polar bear conservation. For more information, visit www.polarbearsinternational.org.
Founded in 2004 by Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Director and Vice President of the Annenberg Foundation, explore.org is a philanthropic multimedia organization with a mission to champion the selfless acts of others and create a portal into the natural world. With over 100 live streaming cameras, explore.org is the largest live nature network in the world.
About Frontiers North Adventures
A certified B Corporation® and leader in sustainable travel since 1987, Frontiers North specializes in authentic adventures in Canada’s North, providing guests with the opportunity to experience the wildlife, history and culture of its people. Owners-and-operators of the official Tundra Buggy®, Frontiers North offers a variety of tour programs, the most popular being polar bears in Churchill. www.frontiersnorth.com