By Tom Nelson
Manitoba Conservation does an annual aerial survey from the Churchill area to the Manitoba/Ontario border, roughly the inland range of the polar bears of western Hudson Bay. In late July (the 22nd I believe), they flew the range and counted around 34 bears. Most were still out on the bay feasting on seals. In fact, there were still two little bits of ice floe in southwestern Hudson Bay on August 22nd...! This means that many of the bears stayed out on the ice until mid-August, almost a month later than usual (or at least, earlier than usual for the last decade, but simply similar to the ‘glory days’ of the early eighties).
So, almost all of the bears visiting Churchill are in really good shape (around ten to twelve in buggyland right now). This seems to have translated through the larger population with 266 polar bears being counted on the fall aerial survey in September. This is the largest number of bears recorded in the history of this survey. Isn’t that crazy?!? Life is good for the bears!
Of course, this also leads to the cut in quota for Nunavut’s Inuit. Arviat, an economically challenged traditional Inuit town just north of Churchill (and when I say just north, I mean 250 miles) has had their quota wiped out. From 23 polar bears harvested last year, political pressure (not research) has led the government of Nunavut to cut it to three bears. All three bear ‘tags’ have now been used in self-defence kills (partially because we relocate bears north from Churchill… but that’s another story). So, no commercial hunt, no income, no community pride for Arviat… hmmm…
I used to do upper atmosphere solar wind research at Ft Churchill, you wouldn’t dare go outside in winter without an armed guard with a very big rifle. This was years back, and it has gotten worse since.`Polar bears are everywhere in the north country, everyone knows it. But how many have actually been there.
Polar bears are nothing but brown bears who turned white about 250,000 years ago when the Boreal Forest grew up to the Arctic sea in many places. Where do people think the “tundra” comes from? The bears just walked north and evolution changed them to white, so the seals couldn’t see them as well. Simple history will get you the facts.