The annual fall survey of Polar bears in the Churchill area of Hudson Bay set a new record this year. With hunting quotas almost eliminated new records could be set in subsequent years. Reduced hunting is the main driver in expanding Polar bear populations.
Manitoba Conservation does an annual aerial survey from the Churchill area to the Manitoba/Ontario border, roughly the inland range of the polar bears of western Hudson Bay. In late July (the 22nd I believe), they flew the range and counted around 34 bears. Most were still out on the bay feasting on seals. In fact, there were still two little bits of ice floe in southwestern Hudson Bay on August 22nd…! This means that many of the bears stayed out on the ice until mid-August, almost a month later than usual (or at least, earlier than usual for the last decade, but simply similar to the ‘glory days’ of the early eighties).
So, almost all of the bears visiting Churchill are in really good shape (around ten to twelve in buggyland right now). This seems to have translated through the larger population with 266 polar bears being counted on the fall aerial survey in September. This is the largest number of bears recorded in the history of this survey. Isn’t that crazy?!? Life is good for the bears!
Of course, this also leads to the cut in quota for Nunavut’s Inuit. Arviat, an economically challenged traditional Inuit town just north of Churchill (and when I say just north, I mean 250 miles) has had their quota wiped out. From 23 polar bears harvested last year, political pressure (not research) has led the government of Nunavut to cut it to three bears. All three bear ‘tags’ have now been used in self-defence kills (partially because we relocate bears north from Churchill… but that’s another story). So, no commercial hunt, no income, no community pride for Arviat… hmmm…