“This bear is really, really not out of business. (…) In fact, when I look where it is, it’s pretty much the worst of the imaginable situations for a polar bear. “
Andrew Derocher was very intrigued by the news of a “visit” of polar bears close to the village of Saint-Augustin on the Lower North Shore. He is a biologist at the University of Alberta and one of Canada’s leading experts. However, even if the animal was left free and simply removed from the community of Saint-Augustin by wildlife agents, even if it was not the first to venture into this corner of the country, If it is a formidable predator, M. Derocher doubts very much his chances of survival.
“In the pictures, the bear seems to me to be well nourished and healthy, so it is able to travel very long distances (easily hundreds of kilometers, Editor’s note). The problem is not there, “explains the researcher.
The trouble is that the urside must absolutely regain the pack ice and that at present there is no plausible way to do so. According to the latest satellite images, an area of solid ice is some fifty kilometers from the North Shore. For a polar bear, however surprising it may seem, this is not a big challenge – there are several documented cases of polar bears crossing more than 100 km of open water. But “these are animals that have a strong instinct to return to the shelter and who have learned not to swim to the south,” says Derocher. When the pack ice breaks and drifts southward, they return to the solid ice by swimming to the north. They do that all the time. And that’s probably what the North Shore Bear did:
One can doubt then that he will take this route, especially as he is on unknown terrain, does not know where the south is and the solid ice is too far off to see.
Another less optimistic option
Then the other possibility, Mr. Derocher goes on, would be to walk along the shore to Labrador. Again, the distance of several hundred kilometers to go is not a problem for Ursus maritimus. But this journey will make it cross several human villages, where hunger will increase the risk of conflict – of which, hopefully, it would be the only victim.
And anyway, even if he passes his way without encumbrance, he will not be at the end of his troubles. “Due to the amount of time it will take before reaching Labrador, it is questionable whether the pack ice will still be there when it arrives,” says Derocher. From satellite imagery, ice along the Labrador coast has already begun to break down quite a bit. […] But it’s also true that ice can change quickly, it can blow a good south wind that would push the Gulf ice on the coast, and the bear would then quickly back on the ice . ”
However, at this time of the year, the ice may be of poor quality, too thin, too uneven, too fragmented. “It’s extremely exhausting for them to move in there. Long strokes are not a problem. But thin, fragmented ice, yes, “says Derocher. Besides, along the coast of Labrador, the sea currents flow southward …
However, it is not completely impossible for the animal to get away with it, the biologist says. But “if I had to wager,” he said, “I would not put my money on his chances of survival.”