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Biologists say polar bear population stable in one part of Canada

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

For years, Canadian scientists and people who rely on traditional knowledge have disagreed when it comes to predicting polar bear populations.

A recent survey of bears in the Western Hudson Bay region found the population hasn't changed since 2004, despite dire predictions.

Biologist Mitch Taylor, speaking at a fur industry event in Iqaluit Friday, said the scientific information used to count the populations could be flawed.

"I have more confidence in the traditional ecological knowledge that local people have provided that populations in their areas are stable or increasing," he said.

Taylor used to work as a biologist for the Nunavut Government and is now at Lakehead University.

His views have been controversial in the scientific community, but popular with Inuit.

Many Inuit people say they see more polar bears every year, despite the doom and gloom advanced by some groups and scientists.

"As an Inuk, as a person living in the North, it's hard to swallow and hard to believe knowing the fact that there's a number of polar bears," said James Eetoolook, the vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik.

Nunavut has 12 distinct polar bear populations. Recent estimates show most populations are healthy.

In total, Taylor estimates there are 15,000 polar bears in Canada.

 

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.