Joint U.S.-Canada Beaufort Sea polar bear survey planned

Groups responsible for monitoring polar bear populations in the U.S. and Canadian Beaufort Sea are hoping to do an aerial survey over two years starting in 2017.

2-year aerial survey would start in 2017

A male polar bear approaches biologists on the Beaufort Sea off Alaska in 2005. Groups responsible for monitoring polar bear populations in the U.S. and Canadian Beaufort Sea are hoping to do an aerial survey over two years starting in 2017. The last time a co-ordinated U.S.- Canada survey was done on Beaufort Sea polar bears was in 2004-2005. (Steven C. Amstrup, USGS/Associated Press)

If Invuialuit communities agree to it, a new survey should give the most accurate count of polar bears in the Beaufort region in the last 10 years.

Groups responsible for monitoring polar bear populations in the U.S. and Canadian Beaufort Sea are hoping to do the aerial survey over two years starting in 2017.

Counts done annually on the U.S. side indicate the population has dropped by 40 per cent over the last 10 years, but those surveys are done on only a small part of the bears' range and their results conflict with what hunters in both Alaska and the Northwest Territories have been seeing.

"Numbers they're coming out with through their modelling don't match what the hunters are observing when they're out there on the ice, so we'd like to resolve that difference of opinion," said Steven Baryluk with the Inuvialuit Game Council. "We felt that undertaking a survey that's co-ordinated across the range of the southern Beaufort bears would be a good way to do that." 

Consultations on the survey have been held in two Inuvialuit communities. Baryluk said they will be held in the remaining four over the next few weeks.

The last time a co-ordinated U.S.- Canada survey was done on Beaufort Sea polar bears was in 2004-2005.