Changes in the Composition of the Harvest in Three Polar Bear Subpopulations in the Western Canadian Arctic after the U.S. Listing of the Polar Bear as a Threatened Species




conservation hunting; guided hunting; Inuit; Inuvialuit; sport hunting; wildlife co-management


The 2008 United States (U.S.) listing of the polar bear as a threatened species prohibits the importation of polar bear trophies into the U.S., significantly decreasing the number of Americans paying for guided polar bear hunts in Canada. We examined the numbers and composition of the harvest in three polar bear subpopulations, Northern Beaufort Sea, Southern Beaufort Sea, and Viscount Melville Sound, located in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the western Canadian Arctic to identify what happens when the support for guided hunting is withdrawn. We find that there was no significant change in the number of polar bears harvested or in the sex composition of the harvest in the three subpopulations after the U.S. listing. Over the twelve-year study period, harvests in each subpopulation were always within the quota. The number of guided hunts decreased after the U.S. listing and the number of subsistence hunts increased in each subpopulation during this time. The number of bears harvested as a percentage of tags used was significantly higher in the Northern Beaufort Sea after the listing. This is because a tag issued for a guided hunt is considered “used” even if the hunt is unsuccessful, which is often the case as hunters seek large male bears, whereas a tag issued for subsistence is re-issued until a successful harvest. We conclude that while the U.S. listing and rapid decline in guided hunts did not affect the number of polar bears harvested, it did disrupt the Inuit cultural economy.