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

Just Posted

Giesbrecht found guilty of second-degree murder

Murder is only rational conclusion from evidence, Judge says

Fire ban back in effect for Northwest Fire Centre region

Starting May 24, both Category 2 and Category 3 prohibitions will be in place

Convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams to return to B.C. court in July

Catherine Adams is under a 20-year ban on owning animals, from a 2015 sentence in Smithers

Good job boys

Oakley (L) and Storm sold lemonade in Houston to raise money to… Continue reading

The north, rural areas deserve own ICBC rates, says Houston council

Matter to be considered at provincial convention this fall

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read