Trail Dispatch – Polar Bears According to Theo



theo.jpgCoordinates: 68.12.254 N, 65.41.037W
Distance Traveled: 19 mi/ 30 km
Wind: 5-10 MPH / 16-24 KPH

Cloud Cover: Hazy skies in the morning, clearing by afternoon
Sunrise: 5:24 a.m.
Sunset: 7:31 p.m.

 

I started seeing polar bears as soon as I could start seeing into the distance. Probably right from my mother’s back. I don’t remember seeing my first one. I grew up seeing them all the time as a child.

The absence of ice is creating more people and polar bear conflicts, driving them inland more. Cumberland Sound was a prime example…because of the lack of ice we saw polar bear tracks where they usually don’t reside.

tracks.jpg Here in Home Bay, on the Davis Strait, however, we have deep snow and an area of accumulation. It is an ideal denning scene. Not only for polar bears, but also for ring seals. The snow provides perfect insulation for the seal pups. Bears begin denning in November, which is early compared to the seal. Ring seals don’t start making dens until January or February.

This area of deep snow allows populations to thrive. Inuit, bear, and seal. You see it playing out here. This area has not yet been changed by global warming. lt gets more precipitation because of the North Atlantic. In this ideal microclimate we are seeing a thriving bear population. We saw close to a dozen polar bear tracks today, including those of small cubs.

The bear and people are equal. We have equal footing. The bear hunts here. So do the people. In the past, we never went hunting for polar bears. If we chanced upon one we would kill it. But it is not the preferred meat. When polar bear hunting became commercialized, that’s when things picked up. In 1979, the government of the NWT was quite newly formed. Regulations and quotas came into being.

theo_will.jpg Polar bears, they have seasons for most communities, October 1st or November 1st, depending on what the hunters and trappers prefer. During freeze up is when the quota opens. It closes May 30th. This is your time to hunt bears. If you’re not an Inuk you have to pay for sport hunt ($15,000 at minimum). Otherwise you’re not alowed to hunt polar bears at all. Sport hunting supports the economy. Of the $15,000 that people pay, $10,000 goes back into the local community, to the guide, skin scraping and drying, snow mobile drivers, and dog team drivers. You are required by law to go sport hunting by dog sled. This in turn helps sustain the dog sledding industry.

The conditions we have now, right here, they are ideal for the polar bears. The cubs will survive until the fall, and then probably beyond. But what we’re experiencing here, this main breeding ground and paradise for the polar bears, could be gone in 10-15 years due to climate change.

Theo Ikummaq

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