Inuit hunters, left to right, Meeka Mike, Lew Philip and Joshua Kango skin a polar bear on the ice as the sun sets during the traditional hunt on Frobisher Bay near Tonglait, Nunavut on February 2, 2003. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Frayer)

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

There are too many polar bears in parts of Nunavut and climate change hasn’t yet affected any of them, says a draft management plan from the territorial government that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking.

The proposed plan — which is to go to public hearings in Iqaluit on Tuesday — says that growing bear numbers are increasingly jeopardizing public safety and it’s time Inuit knowledge drove management policy.

“Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,” says the document, the result of four years of study and public consultation.

“Public safety concerns, combined with the effects of polar bears on other species, suggest that in many Nunavut communities, the polar bear may have exceeded the co-existence threshold.”

Polar bears killed two Inuit last summer.

READ MORE: One hunter dead, two injured after Nunavut polar bear attack

READ MORE: Nunavut man killed by polar bear while protecting kids

The plan leans heavily on Inuit knowledge, which yields population estimates higher than those suggested by western science for almost all of the 13 included bear populations.

Scientists say only one population of bears is growing; Inuit say there are nine. Environment Canada says four populations are shrinking; Inuit say none are.

The proposed plan downplays one of the scientific community’s main concerns.

“Although there is growing scientific evidence linking the impacts of climate change to reduced body condition of bears and projections of population declines, no declines have currently been attributed to climate change,” it says. ”(Inuit knowledge) acknowledges that polar bears are exposed to the effects of climate change, but suggests that they are adaptable.”

Environment Canada’s response says that’s “not in alignment with scientific evidence.” It cites two studies suggesting the opposite.

Andrew Derocher, a University of Alberta polar bear expert, is blunter.

“That’s just plain wrong,” he said. “That’s been documented in many places now — not just linked to body condition but reproductive rates and survival.”

The government of Nunavut declined an interview request.

Its position is strongly supported by the 11 Inuit groups and hunters’ organizations that made submissions.

“(Inuit knowledge) has not always been sufficiently incorporated by decision-makers,” says a document submitted by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Inuit land-claim organization. “The disconnect between the sentiment in certain scientific communities and (Inuit knowledge) has been pronounced.”

Pond Inlet wants to be able to kill any bear within a kilometre of the community without the animal being considered part of the town’s quota. Rankin Inlet simply wants to lower bear populations.

In its submission, the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board expresses frustration with how polar bears are used as an icon in the fight against climate change.

“This is very frustrating for Inuit to watch … We do not have resources to touch bases with movie actors, singers and songwriters who often narrate and provide these messages,” it says.

“We know what we are doing and western science and modelling has become too dominant.”

The territory’s wildlife management board will take what it hears at the public hearings and include it in a final document, which will go before the Nunavut cabinet for approval.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘It’s job No. 1 right now’: B.C.’s Harmac Pacific providing pulp for critical medical supplies

Bryan Reid Sr. of Williams Lake said they received a call of thanks from Canada’s Chrystia Freeland

Clearwater Famers Market looking for help

“The Farmers Market and the North Thompson (Valley) need more local food.”

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Rainer Meat Cutting continues family tradition

Finding a new role in the days of COVID-19

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read