$400,000 apiece? Canadians try to put economic value on polar bears

A polar bear rests with her cubs on the pack ice in the Beaufort Sea. U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service via The Associated Press

Canadians are willing to shell out about $500 per household each year to save their polar bear population from a die-off caused by global warming, according to research commissioned by the Canadian government. Canada has about 15,000 polar bears, two-thirds of the world population. The bears are worth $6.3 billion to Canadians, or about $400,000 apiece, according to the estimate.

From CBC News:

That's more than Canadians would pay to help drop the St. Lawrence beluga down a rung on the species-at-risk list. The study says each household would pay only $107 if it meant moving the whale to a less serious status from its current "threatened" designation.

Apparently, the belugas weren't quite as charming.

"The difference could be explained by the fact that polar bears receive much more media attention than belugas, even though the beluga is also a charismatic species," the report says. ...

To come up with that number, the authors of the report tried to put dollar amounts to different facets of the bear, such as its cultural and symbolic worth and its value to northern tourism and hunting.

Is it possible to put a price on an iconic species? "You're quite right to be somewhat skeptical," Environment Minister Peter Kent said. "If you were to ask me what I put the price of polar bears to Canada and to Canadians, I'd say 'priceless.' "

Read more at the CBC.