The graphic symbol of the environmental movement is the emaciated polar bear – ostensibly in that state because of global warming. Critics of the vivid photographs claim that the pictures are taken of old, sick or diseased bears.
A controversial report has been released by the Canadian government claiming the polar bear populations are growing and a threat to native Inuit populations.
The report is disputed by environmental scientists who claim that the populations are not growing, but are moving closer to humans as they search for food.
“Wildlife experts often use images of emaciated polar bears to show how habitats are coming under threat due to ice shrinking and sea levels rising.
Wildlife experts said that the photos showed how the polar bears' habitat is coming under threat due to human-induced global warming.
However, a new report, drafted by the Nunavut government, completely contradicts these widely-held claims about declining populations,” reports The Daily Mail.
The draft report, which is set to be published by the end of this year, claims that polar bear populations are much higher than scientists estimated - and are actually increasing.
“Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,” reports the Windsor Star. “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.”
The report consists of information submitted from Inuit groups across Canada’s northern territories.
In a related study, the first formal count of polar bears in waters between the United States and Russia indicates they're doing better than some of their cousins elsewhere.
University and federal researchers estimate a healthy and abundant population of nearly 3,000 animals in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast, reported The Daily Mail.
It is estimated that Canada is home to 16,000 polar bears – 65 percent of the total global populations.
Approximately 600 are killed annually, mostly by Inuit hunters.
Although hunting quotas are not set to increase immediately, it appears that could be a reality at some point, according to The Daily Mail.
For U.S. citizens, that reality is likely to make zero difference. It is currently illegal to import polar bears in the United States that have been legally hunted outside the U.S. (It is illegal to hunt polar bears in Alaska.)
Canada and other countries (e.g. Russia) permit hunting of polar bears and often the permits are issued to native communities who sell some of their permits to non-natives.
In the mid-2000s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the polar bear as ‘threatened.’ This listing triggered a ‘depleted’ classification under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which caused the FWS to shut down importation.
Approximately 47 polar bears hunted just before the FWS shut down importation were caught in limbo. They were taken at a time when it was legal to import polar bears, but by the time they were ready to be shipped the laws had changed. There have been several bills proposed in Congress to bring those bears to the U.S.
Prior to the threatened listing, individuals who imported legally hunted polar bears were required, under statute, to pay a $1,000 fee for each polar bear that was imported. The statute required that the fees be used for polar bear research and conservation. During the years that polar bears were imported under this authority, over $900,000 was collected for polar bear research and conservation.
Polar bear hunting is still legal in Canada and other places, but U.S. citizens can no longer import bears if they hunt them.