Polar Bear Numbers Look Promising

The Government of Nunavut, Bear Hunting Magazine

The ongoing debate over climate change and its impact on polar bears has intensified again with the release of a new survey that shows the polar bear population in a key part of northern Canada is far larger than many thought, and may even be growing.

The number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay, believed to be among the most threatened, stands at 1,013 and could be even larger, according to the results of an aerial survey released by the Government of Nunavut. This is much larger than estimates by other researchers who forecasted the numbers would fall to as low as 610.

The Hudson Bay region, which straddles Nunavut and Manitoba, is critical because it is considered an indicator for how polar bears are doing elsewhere in the Arctic.

There are around 25,000 polar bears across Canada’s Arctic region currently, making it likely the highest population level there has ever been in the region.

Polar bear population figures are used to calculate quotas for hunting which is highly regulated but Inuit communities who sell their quota to hunters, who must hunt with Inuit guides. The Nunavut hunting quota in the western Hudson Bay area went to eight from 56 in 2004 greatly decreasing the income Inuit communities were able to bring in. The Nunavut government increased the quota last year from eight to 21, but was met with protests. Over all, around 450 polar bears are harvested annually across Nunavut. A new quota is expected to be announced in June.

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