USAToday – November 2, 2007
Evidently, in this area of Canada, they have done a reasonably good job of counting bears and they cite several statistics that show that bears are declining in numbers. Other studies have shown that there is no significant bear decline so I wanted you to read this story as well.
This story is actually part of the USAToday’s travel section and describes an unusual destination trip in Canada where tourists are allowed to drive out and see polar bears in the wild. I hope that the reason for the decline in bears here is not because of other human interference that the story discusses such as:
- tourists trips
- bear watches
- bear relocations
- bear traps
The so-called bear season in October and November is also the time when 7,500 visitors converge on this Arctic outpost of 1,100 hearty souls to witness the annual migration of the magnificent white behemoths.
Interest in the tours is keen, in part, because of bleak predictions that global warming could cause the world’s polar bear population to shrink by two-thirds in the next 50 years. As the bears’ primary hunting grounds, polar ice is crucial to their survival. But after a 20-year warming trend, Hudson Bay is melting an average of three weeks earlier, scientists say. And it’s freezing later, which keeps the bears land-bound longer. On terra firma from July to November, they grow hungry and skinny in their “walking hibernation” until their return to the ice to bulk up over the winter and spring.
The Western Hudson Bay population, the most studied group of bears, dropped from 1,140 to 950 in the past decade. The average weight of females is down from 583 pounds to 418 pounds, which has negative reproductive consequences. Moreover, the mortality rate for bears between birth and age 5 is up 50% because of the shortened hunting time on the ice, says Robert Buchanan, president of Polar Bears International, a group that supports research and education.
The main man-made attraction on the city tour is the 28-cell holding facility popularly known as the polar bear jail in a Quonset hut on the grounds of a former military base east of town. It is ringed by bear traps, giant tin can-like contraptions, baited with seal-oil-soaked burlap. Conservation personnel armed with cracker shells patrol the town to drive errant bears into unpopulated areas. Three-time offenders get locked up for the season. Others are flown to remote territory and released.
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Filed under: Getting warmer