Beaufort polar bears booming
IQALUIT — Even as polar bear populations in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region are plummeting, bear numbers in the Western Arctic seem to have taken off.
According to a report in the Anchorage Daily News, scientists have determined that polar bear populations in the Beaufort Sea are reaching historic highs.
Researchers say they now think there may be more than 2,500 bears between Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, and Barrow, Alaska. That’s 700 more bears than previously thought.
Part of the bear boom can be explained by an almost total hunting ban on the animals that has been in place for the last three decades. In 1972 the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act outlawed sport-hunting of bears in the Beaufort Sea region. Inupiat and Inuvialuit hunters harvest an average of 56 bears per year for subsistence purposes.
Before the sport-hunting ban was enacted, around 256 bears were killed each year.
Since then, the Beaufort bear count has increased by more than 2 per cent a year.
The world population of polar bears is estimated to be between 22,000 and 27,000 animals. About 15,000 of those bears are thought to reside in Canada.