Canada
Polar bear population growing

A female polar bear with two cubs near Churchill, Canada in 2009.

Credits: REUTERS/Geoff York/WWF/Handout

QMI AGENCY

Canada's polar bear population is healthy contrary to predictions of decline, a new survey shows.

An aerial survey of western Hudson Bay - considered one of the most at-risk areas - counted 1,013 polar bears in August, according to data released by the Nunavut government.

A study in 2004 counted 935 bears and predicted populations would decline to about 610 by 2011.

Canada has two-thirds of the world's polar bear population and the status of the animal has long been the subject of debate.

World Wildlife Fund said a shorter sea ice season has threatened the ability of polar bears to feed. The group said the polar bear population in Hudson Bay has dropped more than 20% since the 1990s, according to data on its website.

Much of the North disagrees that the bear population is dropping and Inuit hunters report they see large numbers of the animals.

In 2011, Environment Canada declared the polar bear a species of concern because of over-harvesting and climate change.

Traditionally, the Inuit people hunt polar bears for food and pelts. Fur sales are lucrative in the North, with hunters able to sell pelts for an average of $5,600 to buyers mainly from Russia and China, an Environment Canada report says.

Canada is the only country that allows a polar bear trophy hunt, attracting hunters from around the world. In Nunavut, hunting trips cost upwards of $30,000 and are done using a quota system.

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