Polar bears remain of “special concern,” for now, say scientists

"We will need to keep a close eye on this species"

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada says that polar bears continue to be of “special concern” because the species may become threatened or endangered. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

By JANE GEORGE

Polar bears face an uncertain future due to threats posed by climate change, according to a new assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

The committee, known as COSEWIC, once again assessed polar bears as a “special concern.” That means the species may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Polar bears first received this classification during the committee’s last assessment of the species in 2008.

“It is clear we will need to keep a close eye on this species. Significant change is coming to its entire range,” said Graham Forbes, co-chair of the subcommittee charged with assessing the polar bear’s outlook, in a Dec. 3 news release, which followed the agency’s recent meeting.

The committee plans to next re-evaluate the status of the polar bear “within the next decade.”

For its recent assessment of the polar bear, COSEWIC said it took account of “extensive” Indigenous knowledge and western science, before determining the polar bear’s status.

COSEWIC said predictions for longer ice-free Arctic summers will make seal hunting much more difficult for the polar bear.

But COSEWIC acknowledged Inuit, “who know the species well, are cautiously optimistic,” suggesting that the polar bear’s adaptability may save it, even if seals become more difficult to capture.

“While not currently threatened with extinction, the species faces an uncertain future,” COSEWIC said.

Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, polar bears have also been listed of special concern since 2011.

This SARA listing is supposed to see a plan within three years to prevent the species from becoming endangered or threatened. Yet that still hasn’t happened, said Brandon Laforest, World Wildlife Fund-Canada’s senior specialist for Arctic species and ecosystems.

Seven years after being listed as at risk, polar bears “remain of special concern and yet have no federal management plan,” he said in a news release.

For polar bears to have a healthy future, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced to address sea loss ice, said Laforest.

“We also must make public safety a top priority; investment in reducing human-polar bear conflict will be critical as polar bears come into more conflict with northern communities,” he said.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Tomasie Panipak on

    As you know, polar bears and Inuit hunt seals. Also there are wolves and fox that seek out seal pups in season. Once the seal is hard to find polar bear population will also decline. Once the ice forms there are less polar bears can go after in the sea. Inuit have alway had the polar bear low. Inuit don’t go out to catch a harvest in numbers. We get what we want and want it fresh. Yes we do cache for formentation. Inuit say there are too many polar bears not just because they are killing Inuit. Once there are less seals then polar bears, polar bears are also canibles but once they start to depend on each other for food. They are likely to become extreamly dangrouse and you will have to kill them.

  2. Posted by Jim MacDonald on

    Wonder what COSEWIC and WWF are viewing to keep pounding out Arctic sea ice loss thus polar bears must have a special concern uncertain future label?

    Could it be because natural climate drivers do not get entered into their climate/polar bear prediction models? Natural climate drivers such as; solar 11-year cycles, volcanic eruptions, clouds and the North Atlantic is rapidly cooling.

    It’s the second year in a row ice arrives earlier for polar bear seal hunting access at Churchill Manitoba. Where’s their Hallelujahs? The prediction for long ice-free Arctic summers is being ice-crushed. A 2016 scientific paper discovered where there was less ice, polar bears increased and healthy.

    Though if the missing natural climate data and more traditional ecological knowledge was entered, guess it would mess up the one and only mind-message of climate change superstition of projected fears, causing the endangerment of polar bears.

  3. Posted by Silas on

    The scientists that are being referred to only seem to be at one location which they call the polar bear capital of the world, being Churchill, MB. A roaming animal such as the polar bear must move from one location to another to survive. It gives me pause to think that due to changes in climate and other factors such as too many bears in one location, would that not be cause for some to move to other locations? That would then lead one to think that the “capital” could also change locations for these animals.
    Bears are an intelligent being and when one location has too many with less food to go around then some will move their hunting grounds. Grizzlies and Polar Bears are of the same family. In the grizzly territory in which I live they have increased in the last ten years or so due to the abundance of cached caribou meat in the fall. There has also been a drastic increase in wolverines and foxes due to the ban on furs around the world.

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