Polar bears, drawn again to the Russian metropolis by the lifeless walrus Attenborough, don’t blame sea ice


Reposted by Polar Bear Science

Published on December 20, 2020 |

On the news again: Cape Schmidt (on the Chukchi Sea) became famous for Sir David Attenborough's false claim that walrus fell to its death due to lack of sea ice due to climate change, when in fact a clever polar bear hunt strategy was to blame.

Ryrkaypiy overrun by polar bears WWF photoRyrkaypiy overrun by polar bears WW 2019 WWF Photo

Last December (above), some bears ate at Ryrkaypyy's dump and wandered around town after being displaced by walrus carcasses by larger, stronger bears on the nearby point.

This year the city managed to keep the bears out of the city. While residents have no real problems, more than 30 bears have been spotted near town and they almost certainly feed on walrus carcasses with natural death along the coast (see photo below from 2017 where Ryrkaypiy can be seen in the background) .

From the Russian news agency TASS (December 16, 2020), my boldness:

Almost 30 polar bears have arrived in the immediate vicinity of the village of Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka. The animals have been peaceful so far, WWF Russia told TASS.

“The small village of Ryrkaypiy on the west coast of Chukotka is approached by a few dozen polar bears. The bear patrol brigade of WWF Russia is taking care of the situation and will not allow the predators into the village, ”the statement said.

It is noted that the patrol counted around 30 bears today that are behaving peacefully. "These are only the ones that could be seen with binoculars, there are probably more animals," the press service said.

In response to this report, polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher insisted that the only reason these polar bears would eat from the Chukchi Sea is because of the lack of sea ice (see below): https: //platform.twitter.com/embed/index. html? CreatorScreenName = sjc_pbs & dnt = true & embeddedId = twitter-widget-0 & frame = false & hideCard = false & hideThread = false & id = 1339684795194822662 & lang = de & origin = https% 3A% 2F% 2Fpolarbearscience.com% 2F2020% 2F12% Town-by-Dead-Walrus-Attenborough-guilt-on-no-sea-ice% 2F & siteScreenName = sjc_pbs & theme = light & widgetsVersion = ed20a2b% 3A1601588405575 & width = 500px

However, the ice maps for December 10, almost a week before this report was published (see below), show more of an abundance of sea ice off Ryrkaypiy:

In fact, there has been ice off the coast in this part of the Chukchi Sea for weeks, certainly enough to attract the seals that polar bears usually feed on in autumn. The following graphic is from December 1, 2020:

Derocher describes what he thinks polar bears should do instead of evaluating what the bears are actually doing. It is evident that polar bears near Ryrkaypiy prefer to catch hundreds of walrus carcasses rather than looking for live seals on the newly formed ice, and have done so since 2006 (see discussion below). Dead walrus, dead whales, and live seals are natural sources of food and provide the fat polar bears need to thrive. So there is no reason to assume that bears would not choose the more efficient route to a fat meal when presenting themselves.

Recent scientific studies have shown that the polar bears of the Chukchi Sea are in excellent condition and reproduce well, despite the recent fall in sea ice in summer. There is no scientific evidence that this situation has changed significantly this year (Adam et al. 2019; AC SWG 2018; Regehr et al 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2018). The latest survey estimated around 3,000 bears in the Chukchi Sea. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that more polar bears visiting Chukotka settlements in recent years are due to a growing number of bears – as I suggested earlier this year, to address the increasing problems with bears in Labrador to explain. In other words, like the 1980s, seeing more bears often means there are actually more bears.


Ryrkaypiy is at the base of a spit where herds of walrus have gathered every few years since at least 2007. The walrus numbers are significantly higher compared to the 1990s and the size of the herds that have gone ashore in recent years has been quite astonishing (Crockford 2014; Fay and Kelly 1980; Fay et al. 1989; Fischbach et al. 2016 ; Lowry 1985; MacCracken et al. 2017). The city is just over a mile from the cliffs that were used to film the infamous Netflix and BBC walrus videos in 2017. A mile is not for a polar bear: bears that "normally" hang on a spit are close enough to the village to cause problems if they are so inclined.

In 2013, more than 40 polar bears are said to have threatened the residents of Ryrkaypiy because they were attracted to two whale cadavers that washed ashore nearby:

"Bear fear: Masses of polar predators besiege the Russian city in the Far East" (November 11, 2013):

“According to WWF Russia, 43 predators have gathered near the village of Ryrkaypy. Polar bears have been spotted near the remains of two dead whales that washed up on the beaches several kilometers from the Chukotka settlement.

"The last time that large numbers of polar bears were gathered in one place on the Arctic coast of Chukotka in the fall of 2006"The head of WWF's polar bear patrol project Viktor Nikiforov said."

The online news agency Gizmodo reported at the end of October 2017:

“… Ryrkaypiy, a small village on the north coast of Chukotka on the border with the Chukchi Sea. According to a report in the Siberian Times 5,000 walruses were recently picked up on a coast near the village. The walruses were followed by about 20 polar bears, undoubtedly drawn to the stench of thousands of bubbling, funky meals.

The arrival of the bears caused the walruses to panic and many tried to flee. According to the Siberian Times, "several hundred" died off the cliffs of nearby Kozhevnikova Cape. The bears naturally went into town with the carcasses. "

Polar bears relocated to the village in 2007 after a huge herd of 40,000 walruses spent time on a spit in the fall, leaving more than 500 carcasses of animals on local beaches that had died naturally from falls or tramples.

Bottom line: This year's report differed from the influx of bears terrorizing the village in 2007 and 2019 because the village appeared to have finally taken sufficient measures to keep the bears out of the city. The lack of sea ice caused by human-made global warming does not cause more polar bears to congregate around Ryrkaypiy in late fall. A combination of increasing numbers of bears and an abundance of walruses who died from natural causes earlier in the year is almost certainly the immediate cause. Walrus and dead whale carcasses are an attractive source of food for polar bears, who need to replenish the fat lost in summer before the cold and darkness of winter sets in. These sources of fat are just as useful for bears as they are for living seals for this purpose, and are more easily accessible. Polar bears are often smarter than polar bear biologists assume.


AC SWG 2018. Estimation of the demographic parameters of the polar bear population in Chukchi-Alaska. Eric Regehr, Scientific Working Group (SWG. Report on the work of the 10th session of the Russian-American Commission on Polar Bears, July 27-28, 2018), pg. 5. Published July 30, 2018. US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Adam, R., Bryan, A., Quakenbush, L., Crawford, J. and Biderman, L. 2019. Bearded Seal Productivity in Alaska Using Harvest-Based Monitoring, 1975-2016. Poster presentation, Alaska Marine Science Symposium, January 28-February 1.

Crockford, S.J. 2014. On the beach: Walrus transports are nothing new. Briefing 11 of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Pdf here

Fay, F.H. and Kelly, B.P. 1980. Natural mass mortality of walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) on St. Lawrence Island, Bering Sea, Fall 1978. Arctic 33:226-245. (open access) PDF here.

Fay, F.H., Kelly, B.P. and Sease, J. L. 1989. Management of Pacific Walrus Exploitation: A Delayed Response and Bad Communication Trade. Marine Mammal Science 5: 1-16. PDF HERE.

Fischbach, A. S., Kochnev, A. A., Garlich-Miller, J. L. and Jay, C. V. 2016. Pacific Walrus Coastal Haulout Database, 1852-2016 – Background Report. USGS Open File Report 2016-1108. DOI: 10.3133 / ofr20161108 PDF HERE, download here.

Lowry, L. 1985. "Pacific Walrus – Boom or Bust?" Alaska Fish & Game Magazine July / August: 2-5. pdf here.

MacCracken, J.G., Beatty, W.S., Garlich-Miller, J.L., Kissling, M.L. and Snyder, J.A. 2017. Final Species Status Assessment for the Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), May 2017 (Version 1.0). US Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK. PDF here (8.6 mb).

Regehr, E.V., Hostetter, N.J., Wilson, R.R., Rode, K.D., St. Martin, M., Converse, S.J. 2018. The integrated population modeling provides the first empirical estimates of the vital rates and the frequency of polar bears in the Chukchi Sea. Scientific reports 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-018-34824-7 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-34824-7

Rode, K. D., Regehr, E. V., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A. E., Thiemann, G. W. and Budge, S. 2014. Variation in a top arctic predator's response to habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20 (1): 76- 88. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12339/abstract

Rode, K.D., R.R. Wilson, D.C. Douglas, V. Muhlenbruch, T.C. Atwood, E.V. Regehr, E.S. Richardson, N.W. Pilfold, A.E. Derocher, G.M. Durner, I. Stirling, S.C. Amstrup, M.S. Martin, A.M. Pagano and K. Simac. 2018. The behavior of a predator with a marine tip when fasting in the spring provides an index of the productivity of the ecosystem. Global Change Biology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13933/full

Like this:

To like Loading…