11/10/2010 1:27:48 PM

Have the Bears Figured out That Things Are Changing?

One has to wonder what it means for the bears when it's raining along the shores of Hudson Bay as we move into the second week of November. It isn't pouring up here; it's really more of a misty, drizzly sort of day. It doesn't look like the bears are inspired by the weather, but at the same time, they seem content enough to go about their business: play-fighting, the undignified but delightful rolling about, the foot inspection.

Bear playing with his foot

Beyond all, it makes one wonder what the bears are really thinking. Are they worried about the arrival of the ice? Have the bears figured out that things are changing?

There's no ice of any substance anywhere in the bay. The forecast suggests things will cool down a bit by the end of the week but it is still well above what we'd expect. The conditions raise the issue of weather and climate: the difference is important. Climate is what you'd expect to see outside when you wake up in the morning but haven't looked out the window. Weather is what you do see when you look outside. It should be cold but it isn't and more worrying, it hasn't been cold at all this autumn.

Polar bear initiating a play session

The ice broke-up earlier this year than normal - if anything can be considered normal anymore in the Arctic. The whole Arctic is missing ice and huge areas are behind schedule. The bears around the Tundra Buggy® Lodge run the spectrum from chubby to lean. The chubby ones look content to wait out the weather but the lean ones look like they would be happier to see some ice form.

Bear initiates play session

We don't know what this year holds for the bears. If the ice comes back soon then things will be OK - likely not a great year but OK. If the ice doesn't re-form for a month then there's more cause for concern and we can expect the bears to have a tough time as winter sets in. There's nothing like uncertainty to make a biologist fuss.

It's wonderful to see the bears up close and it rekindles one's drive to work to help the bears by educating people about climate change and what it means to the bears. People who love polar bears are making a difference and that's a huge step forward. We owe it to the bears and future generations to make things happen.

Photo Credits: Top, ©Andrew Fore; Middle & Bottom, ©Shari Burnett.

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