Yes, climate change is affecting polar bears, but the giant carnivores seem to be adapting just fine, according to reports to a hotline run by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
“The polar bear population has exploded to the point that Inuit are seeing bears that they never used to see,” Paul Irngaut, a wildlife advisor with NTI, tells the Nunatsiaq News, here.
“The future of the polar bear is bright,” he said. But that’s a minority opinion these days, with conservation groups and many scientists claiming that the loss of sea ice due to climate change means the polar bear is facing habitat loss, which will eventually put pressure on population numbers, which total around 25,000 around the world. More than 15,000 of those bears are found in Canada.
NTI set up the toll-free number last month to collect local knowledge on polar bears ahead of the vote on a controversial proposal by the United States that would effectively ban the commercial trade of polar bear parts.
That proposal is to before a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), scheduled for Doha, Qatar this March. NTI plans to present information from the hotline at the conference.
If approved, the plan would effectively end sport-hunting of polar bears. Irngaut estimates polar bear hunting is worth between $2 million and $3 million per year to Nunavut’s economy.
“For cash-strapped communities with low job rates, it’s a huge impact,” he says.