Reports from Nunavut show a rebound in population from over-hunting
To the Expositor:
I indicated in my last note that I would leave the polar bear discussion to rest for a bit but alas, fate has intervened! On November 16, 2020 the Nunavut Department of Environment published online the results of two bear subpopulation surveys including the M’Clintock Channel and the Gulf of Boothia. Key points for the channel include a population estimate that more than doubled from 284 at last count to 716 now. Also, body condition improved between the two counts. The authors make the point that the population has clearly recovered from overhunting during the 1970s to 1990s.
Key points for the gulf are first, that the bear numbers now are about the same as the last survey, 1,525 now vs 1,592. Body condition improved in this area as well and the authors state that population survival indicators suggest a “good potential for growth.”
Note that because of the difficulties in accurately estimating bear populations, it is standard practice to provide a range (low and high) for the estimated population and then state the median which is what I have used here.
It is becoming more evident with each survey completed that the condition of spring sea ice is the critical factor in bear health. Areas that are ice free in the summer season also appear to be beneficial since this results in better feeding for the seals that are the primary food source for the bears. These points are discussed in both reports.