Rising polar bear numbers in Davis Strait get warm reception

An interim report of a three-year study on Davis Strait polar bears shows there is an estimated population of 2,100.

The population of Davis Strait polar bears is estimated to be at 2,100,says an interim report of a three-year study.

Ten years ago, Inuit hunters, using traditional knowledge, estimated there were 1,400 Davis Strait polar bears and 1,650 by 2004.

The population in therecently released report includes polar bears in south Baffin, Labrador, Nunavik and southern Greenland.

Polar bear biologistLily Peacock is leadinga team conducting the study for the Nunavut government. Shetold CBC Newstheyhave counted the bears during the past two summers when theanimals are land locked, and the plan is to conduct a final count this summer.

"With three years of data, we can estimate birth rate, we can estimate mortality rate," Peacock said.

"That kind of information is important to estimate growth, whether population is increasing or decreasing, and you need three years of data in order to do that."

Nunatsiavut Lands andResources MinisterWilliam Barboursays the new numbers are good news for Inuit in Labrador who areallowed to kill six polar bears annually.

In Nunavut, four communities in the south Baffin region share 46 polar bear tags, whilein Nunavik there are no quotas and hunters can kill as many bears as they want.

"Even based on preliminary reports, it is indicating that there are more bears than what the 1996 numbers indicated at that time," Barbour said.

"If there is an increase — because this is a shared population between three jurisdictions — three jurisdictions have to figure out a way that the sharing of any increase must, we feel must be equal."

The study will wrap up later this year, but Peacock said that due to the amount of data collected, the final report is not expected until 2009.