Unsellable polar bear hides travel back from auction house to Nunavut

‘They don’t have the nice fur on them,’ says wild fur grader for auction house

A good-sized polar bear hide like this one seen stretching two years ago outside an Iqaluit house can still find a buyer willing to pay about $5,000. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

About 300 polar bear hides that have been in storage at the Fur Harvesters Auction in North Bay, Ont. are heading back home to Nunavut.

Premier Joe Savikataaq, also the territorial environment minster, said March 1 in the Nunavut legislature that the polar bear hides couldn’t sell at auction due to the “low demand and low prices at auction.”

But Ed Ferguson, the wild fur buyer and grader for Fur Harvesters, said the hides are too small or not good enough to command prices that match the $3,000 subsidies the government paid hunters for the hides. That amount  ends up being the auction house’s minimum price. 

“Back when bears were selling for $15,000, they were giving these big advances,” he said of those subsidies.

But the market for polar-bear fur has taken a dive, making many of the Nunavut hides unsellable. A good quality, 10-foot polar bear hide can still bring in $5,000, he said.

But many of the polar bear hides on their way to back to Nunavut “weren’t of the finest quality,” Ferguson said.

The polar bears may have been taken too early during the hunting season.

“They don’t have the nice fur on them,” Ferguson said.

“It just got to a point where we wouldn’t get money out of the bears and we couldn’t store them.”

Although at the right temperature, quality polar bear hides can stored for a long time, he said.

The auction house sold about 30 to 40 polar bear hides last year to private customers. It sells a large variety of wild furs, but doesn’t advertise that it sells polar bear due to pressure from the United States and animal activists who don’t want to see any polar bear trophy trade.

Grizzly bear furs continue to sell “like crazy,” Ferguson said, and there is always a market for black bear fur used in ceremonial hats.

About 80 higher quality polar bear hides from Nunavut will stay in North Bay, where Ferguson expects they will be sold at auction.

Once the other hides are back in Nunavut, hunters will be able to buy them back from the territorial government for the amount it originally paid for them.

The polar bear hides that aren’t bought back will be donated to non-profit organizations for projects or sold locally by the Department of Environment.

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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    Maybe the care and skill needed to harvest and prepare a skin “ like it used to be done“ is gone.

    Thanks

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    • Posted by Rhiannon edge on

      The article speculated the bears were taken to early in the year. Sounds like the fur itself was the problem. Not workmanship. Read the article.

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      • Posted by Alexandra on

        He said the care and skill are gone, which would contribute to hunting them too early… don’t be ignorant and rude.

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        • Posted by Cameron on

          Shouldn’t that be “please don’t be ignorant and rude” rather than “don’t be ignorant and rude”? Being unpleasant to someone while asking them to be pleasant will generally engender an argument and is not the greatest way to approach (or reproach) someone. Have a great day!

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          • Posted by Ray Stephenson on

            I couldn’t have said it better. Thankyou Cameron

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  2. Posted by Baffener on

    Perhaps we could raffle them, or fund raise to get one. I want to make silipak!

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  3. Posted by Pat on

    I thought for sure this article was going to suggest a connection between climate change, the time of year the bears were taken , and the quality of the fur.

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  4. Posted by Genowefa Cahill on

    I understood that polar bear populations are in decline owing to climate change, sadly it appears that the more immediate reason is a hunt that is subsidized by the canadian government. Canada should protect these magnificent animals, not hasten their extinction.

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    • Posted by Kate on

      The animal is eaten and it’s hide is sold to provide a small income for Inuit hunters. We should stay out of their business and focus on our own cruel ways of raising and slaughtering animals.

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      • Posted by John on

        Kate: totaly agree. Do as I say not as I do rings a tone. Visit slaughter house in let’s say Toronto. Disgusting even the animals all lined up know. Not to long ago they we’re thinking of misting pigs with a sedative. It’s their way of life. Polar bears die as a result of no ice. I only see two options cull the herd or start a program were seal are hunted and brought to shore to feed these magnificent beasts.

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        • Posted by DRGunn Williams on

          If you think Toronto is bad at slaughterhouse. Try a tour on other side of border! Chicago! A “progressive” Northern state. Yuk!
          Use to haul lumber into and Rail road parts out of. Both places 2-3 miles from slaughterhouse rail head. The wind was never blowing a direction that you where one did not smell the stench of US grade A beef!

      • Posted by Garry on

        I agree with you. They waste nothing on the animal, usually killed humanely unlike a lot of the animals this way, caged and penned with no room to move, never see the sunlight, lucky to be fed, beat and slaughtered under surreal stresses. As you stated, we should stay out of their way of living and try looking into our own way of living for once.

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      • Posted by Frasier on

        While it is cruel to slaughter any living thing. It is worse to slaughter an animal on the verge of extinction or whose numbers are declining due to environmental changes. Thats whats really important here. Just like the caribou saga. Hunting these animals are in Inuit culture. There was a time these animals were plentiful, they had no environmental threats. Times have drastically changed, the hunters need to step back and look at the seriousness of their actions. People need to stop buying furs. We are no longer cave people we do not need furs to keep warm. I have no doubt if there wasnt a $5000.00 price on these pelts, there wouldnt be so many of them available. Be safe.

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    • Posted by Forever Amazed on

      Nunavut has a well managed polar bear management plan. They have spent a lot of time developing it and spend a lot of time managing it. Your comments are a bit off.

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    • Posted by Tim Smith on

      Please educate yourself. The polar bear hunt is one of the most regulated hunts on earth. And since the regulations were put in place the polar bear population has actually been on the rise significantly since the 70’s. “ATK indicates stable or increasing populations in all 13 management units”: https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=167 It’s current status on the species at risk registry is “Special Concern”: Those species that are particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events but are not endangered or threatened. The status invokes protective measures to prevent the designation from worsening. Media, including nature docs, always paints a doomsday scenario with a sickly bear dying saying this is because of climate change. But if you listen closely they always say “it may happen”, or ‘likely to happen” or at “risk of happening” but it is said in the context of a predication if nothing is done. Is there a danger? Yes, but the doomsday scenario, sad music, and images of a skinny bear play on your emotions and the knee jerk reaction is an over-reaction. Judgement then comes easy for you on hunters because there is an underlying prejudice. Of the 16 species of Atlantic Salmon listed in the registry, half the population is listed as endangered. Yet there is no big uproar about blaming fisherman. You can even still find it commercially available in any grocery store or restaurant. But when polar bears are mentioned in a story you jump on the misinformation train and point the finger at hunters with no hard facts.

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    • Posted by Jim on

      That’s THE dumbest and most ignorant thing I’ve heard all day. Hunters ARE assisting to conservation. Not social justice warriors that are typing away behind a monitor.

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    • Posted by Shamus on

      Except, Genowefa, polar bear numbers are NOT in decline. In fact their numbers are growing. Misinformation and ignorance on the part of people who prefer to take the click bait titles of anti-hunting groups rather than taking the time to actually do the research is fueling the belief that these populations aren’t stable/growing. The polar bear hunt is one the most heavily regulated and managed in the world if not the most. Stop trying to ban things out of emotion and your unwillingness to educate yourself. Especially things that have zero impact on your life but a significant impact to the lives of the individuals that depend on these hunts.

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    • Posted by Mark Garrick on

      Climate change is a partial reason for the hunt. As habitat shrinks some bears are going to starve. I would rather see a bear harvested humanely. The other part of the reason is tradition. Who are we to tell the people of the land that they can no longer follow tradition?

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      • Posted by Alex on

        There is a similar program in Africa where wealthy hunters pay to hunt “the big 5”. They go with guides to shoot the injured/sick/etc, the money and meat go to the community, the animal does quickly and humanely, no healthy animals are hunted, and the wealthy individual gets to shoot an endangered animal. Until I befriended a hunter I never knew such programs existed.

    • Posted by Someone’s way of life on

      Climate change is a really issues for population and migration patterns. However, the Inuit allowed to hunt these artic animals have lived with thier survival and way of life tide to these animals also. Not just anyone should exhaust these animals population but traditionally hunted bears should pay thier hunters well. It is apparent of the tradition of using the whole animal for them and that includes selling parts to make money to pay for modern necessities like a snowmobile that they might need to maintain to hunt, to then eat. As long as these hides aren’t waisted and the hunters got paid I guess it’s okay but why do these protesters not consider the human lives and culture they are forcing into questionable existence.

  5. Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

    Respond to Genowefa;
    Unfortunately the world outside the circumpolar regions have been misinformed and we get comments about the polar bear population declining from those who do not know. In the days of yesteryear, polar bears were scarce and even seeing tracks used to be a cause for excitement. Back then they harvested every bear they saw in all seasons. Cubs were (still are) a delicacy and they hunted them in dens. Then modern rules came along. family groups became prohibited, they hunted only at certain seasons and sex selective harvesting utilized. Now we have an influx of polar bears everywhere, they are now eating themselves out of home and of course there are more human/ bear instances. When will the world learn?

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  6. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    The most probable reason that several bear hides are not selling is that they are from the southern Kivalliq region where they are hunting bears at the end of October-November before the bears move on to the ice floes. The fur at this time of year is dirty as the bears spent all summer on land and has not grown its full winter clean coat yet. It is more difficult and dangerous to hunt the bears are out on the sea ice and ice floes. They are not as accessible then. However, in the fall, it does get rid of dangerous bears in and around the communities that have been habituated to humans in Churchill where they are allowed to get close to people in the tundra buggies. A lot of people do eat polar bear meat, so it is not only about the hides which can bring extra cash for hunters. Some people keep the hides to make clothing. The Hunters and trappers of those communities could delay the hunting season later on in the winter when the fur is prime, but then it will be more difficult to find the bears and communities would have a lot of dangerous bears in and around those communities that lie on the bear’s migration route. It is a delicate balancing act and up to the HTO’s to make that decision.

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  7. Posted by Subsidized Hunting on

    The GN paid out $600,000 for these hides. I hope they can recover some of that by having a sale.

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  8. Posted by Frank Hummel on

    It’s always bin the man with the most. Education knows nothing just look at what’s going on state side all the flag burning and statues being Torin down for what to change history ya right

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  9. Posted by Baxter Brady on

    Lots of great information in this article ,not really a bear hunter but because of declining moose populations I’ll be targeting the older male grizzly and black bear populations whenever I have the chance. Happy hunting

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  10. Posted by George on

    The basic question that needs to be answered is this: Who is the “owner” of Nunavut wildlife? If the resource belongs exclusively to Inuit, then why would the “others” care about what becomes of those animals? If the care and control of these animals lies with the broader society then, yes, everyone should have a say in how these creatures are “managed”, hunted, consumed, etc.

    One thing is certain, history has taught us that a resource, once commercialized, is probably doomed without very tight management policies. I think there might be an argument to be made for all hunting for monetary gain to be outlawed. These are not economically viable “industries” anyway.

    Tradition? The only thing “traditional” about a modern polar bear hunt is … the bear!

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