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Kim Hiss, an associate editor at Field & Stream, has hunted ducks, antelope, turkeys, and deer throughout the country, enjoying a number of women's hunts along the way. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Click here to email Kim.

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June 24, 2008

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A Polarizing Issue

     Aside from seeing a full-body polar bear mount at a New York shooting club (it needed dusting, unfortunately), it's never occurred to me to think about what a polar bear hunt was like. But officials from northern Canada hope the Endangered Species Act won't keep U.S. hunters from seeking out the experience.
     On June 23, politicians from the Northwest Territory were in Washington D.C. to ask Interior Department officials to allow U.S. sportsmen to continue hunting polar bears in Canada, regardless of the animals' protected status under the ESA. According to this Seattle Post-Intelligencer story, the Northwest Territory's minister for energy, industry and tourism said that preventing hunters from pursuing polar bears and transporting hides back to the U.S. would "wipe out" most of the sporting industry income for villagers along the Arctic coast. About 86 guides and other workers earn their income through the hunting industry, which the minister said affects 3,500 residents. He added that hunters, mostly from the U.S., spend approximately $1.6 million each year on polar bear hunts.
     So, the polar bears are protected by the Endangered Species Act, but the villagers' livelihoods are protected by the polar bear hunts. The situation could hardly get dicier -- until you add in minor details like global warming and Arctic drilling. I don't mind saying that the minister of energy, industry and tourism's job is yet another one I wouldn't want to have. -K.H.

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Comments

Laura Bell

I think they still need to be hunted some. Not just for the villagers, but for control over the population. I'll leave it at that.

Probably, a good person to ask about Polar Bear hunting would be Michele Leqve,
http://www.womenhunters.com/mission-michele-leqve.html

ANewMe2B

I agree that some restrictions should be applied but I do not feel that is should be banned.

Aren't Polar Bears carnivorous?

Michele Leqve's video was awesome. I do not have polar bear on "My List" so I haven't kept abreast of this topic...but I am planning a black bear hunt in 2009.

NorCal Cazadora

Polar bear's not on my list either, so I don't know a great deal about the subject. But I do find it fascinating that the administrations's response to climate change's threat to the polar bears was to further restrict their hunting. How does that minimize the impact of climate change? Duh.

Alex

I am a hunter and I agree that the general public is often too quick to villify hunting, so don't get me wrong when I disagree with all the commenters so far. As hunters, we often claim to be conservationists and to care about the wellbeing of animal populations. A species being listed as endangered, by definition, means that its population does not need to be "controlled," as the first commenter suggested. It means the species is in danger of extinction. Sure, the main cause is climate change, but having hunters out there knocking more of them off doesn't help matters. To me, this is an instance when hunters need to prove to the public that thay actually are conservationists, by backing down when an animal population is clearly in trouble. Perhaps with a lot of willpower we will be able to save the polar bear, and like wolves and bald eagles it will be able to come off the endangered list again. But until then we need to cooperate so that our grandchildren will have a chance to even see a polar bear, let alone hunt them.

Don Byers

It is my understanding that this proposed ban is totally based on a computer model(s) with no basis in fact. On the contrary polar bear populations are in good shape.

FH

The Polar Bear population has been increasing steadly since the 60's, this in the face of loss of habitat. We have only been able to study the amout of sea ice in the artic since we have put up weather satilites, 1979. So all of these computer models are based on very limited hard data. This is more of a political move by invironmentalist to head off drilling for oil in the artic. Russia and china are already starting to drill there and don't give a hoot about our ESA.

Lou Alexander

How much of this is "The sky is falling" from the folks who are 100% sure about global warming and its effects? I agree we shoud do whatever we need to help the envirnment, which will in turn help those who live in it, humans included, but . . . are the polar bear numbers really critical?

A marine biologist friend of mine told me a story which fits this problem. She was out saving sea turtle eggs where she saw a man who was very poor collecting eggs to help feed his family. How could she tell him no?! The families who rely on the hunting industry still need to feed their families, and with a smaller habitat there will be a higher concentration of bears on the range that is availble to them, causing those same families to deal with potential roage bears in their villages looking for food.