Three cheers for Polar Bears: New study shows population higher than thought

CLEVELAND - Residents in the far northern territory of Nunavut in Canada have always disputed the scientific claims that the Polar Bear population in the cold, arctic region was in a death spiral.

Back in 2004, American and Canadian scientists claimed that the Polar Bear numbers had dropped a whopping 22 percent and would continue to decline over the coming years. So what did the government of this small Canadian Territory near Hudson Bay do? They counted the bears themselves.

The results have seriously challenged the doomsday predictions that Polar Bear populations in the Arctic are in rapid decline due to global warming, climate change and climate disruption.  The numbers don't lie.

The aerial survey, completed in 2010, counted 1,013 Polar Bears along the Western Shore of Hudson Bay. Why is this number significant? That's a full 66 percent higher than estimates by scientists. Nunavut Government officials said that number could be even higher.  Researchers, on the other hand, have been forecasting a steady decline in bear numbers in this critical region. They predicted a population in this area of 610 bears, due to warming temperatures and melting arctic sea ice. Melting ice would, scientists claim, hurt a bear's ability to find food and cause many to die. The Nunavut region is considered particularly important. Polar Bear numbers in the Hudson Bay region are considered a good guide to other bear colonies in the Arctic region. 

According to the survey results , "Polar Bear population assessment in North America has historically relied on physical mark-recapture. These studies are logistically and financially intensive, and while widely accepted in the scientific community, local Inuit have voiced opposition to wildlife handling. To better reflect Inuit values and provide a rapid tool for monitoring Polar Bear population size, we developed and implemented an aerial survey in the Foxe Basin subpopulation (FB) during late summer, 2009 and 2010."

The study shows that "the bear population is not in crisis as people believed," said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut's director of wildlife management. "There is no doom and gloom."

Since the survey was sponsored by the Nunavut government, it only covered the coastal areas in that territory, and did not cover the coastal areas in NW Quebec. So the numbers could be even higher.

Polar Bears have been a symbol of the Man-made Global Warming, now climate change, movement for years. Climate scientists and environmental groups are still sounding the alarm.

"Scientists predict that Arctic summers could be ice-free by the middle of this century-without sea ice, Polar Bears cannot survive," said a statement from the National Resources Defense Council.

Claims of the Polar Bear's imminent demise have prompted the U.S. and Canadian Governments to place these animals on the list of threatened or endangered species.

Current Arctic Sea Ice extent (NORSEX) is at the 30 year average and could increase a bit more. The start of the melt season is three weeks late. Now, we see that Polar Bear populations appear to doing just fine. This study makes it clear that 1,013 bears were actually sighted, and the estimated bear population is actually 2,000-3,000 in the Nunavut region. There are currently 19 bear colonies in the Arctic. Scientists have accessed seven of those populations, but admit information on the other 12 is lacking.

Survey results are similar to the estimated bear population in the region back in 1990.

"Our results suggest that Nunavut's management regime has enabled Polar Bear abundance in Foxe Basin to remain relatively stable," the report concluded.

Three cheers for the Polar Bears.

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