A recent aerial survey of Western Hudson Bay polar bears shows the population has increased slightly to about 1,000 animals, according to the Government of Nunavut.
In 2004, a mark-recapture survey done near Churchill, Man., estimated the Western Hudson Bay population at 935 bears, down from 1194 in 1988. A 2006 study hypothesized that if the climate continued to warm, the polar bear population would decline.
The latest survey used planes and helicopters to cover ground from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, south to the Ontario border.
Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife with the Government of Nunavut, said the new numbers vindicate the Nunavut government's recent decision to increase the area’s bear hunting quota. He also said it’s a clear recognition of the value of Inuit Traditional Knowledge.
"If I could convey one message here, it's that polar bears are not endangered," he said. "And this confirms it. They are not endangered. There are concerns about the effects of global warming, but they are not endangered."
Nunavut Tunngavik is also commending the results, as predictions of reduced polar bear numbers were used to draw attention to climate change, but it says no changes were made to reduce the causes or impacts of climate change while harvesting quotas were affected.
"We are quite happy," said James Eetoolook, vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik. "The western science was predicting the polar bear in the Western Hudson Bay was declining, but again, Inuit proved them they were wrong."