PETER FROST took a holiday in Canada last summer.
Polar bears are some of the most majestic and beautiful animals in the world. Northern Canada has more of these magnificent, but threatened giants than anywhere else on earth.
In fact sixty per cent of the world’s polar bears live in Canada’s frozen north.
Yet the Canadian Government, rather than protecting these precious beasts, is letting rich hunters from all over the world shoot a thousand polar bears, in the dubious name of sport, every year.
The global population of the largest of the world’s bears is estimated at between just 20,000 and 22,000 animals. So Canada’s annual kill represents one in every twenty polar bears world-wide.
Much of the threat to polar bears is from global warming. Without ice polar bears are unable to reach their prey. As the Arctic ice caps retreat the bears find it more and more difficult to range the long distances they need to go to find their prey.
Many find themselves short of food and thin and emaciated and find it more difficult to find suitable nourishment for them and their cubs.
Polar Bears are also threatened by pollution from high levels of chemicals in their snowy environment. Industrial development too is taking away the polar bears traditional homes.
Just one example, a huge diamond mine built recently in the North has disturbed hundreds of bears and their traditional den sites.
The bears are being driven further down into Canada every year and this is leading to some curious and previously unknown behaviour.
Most strange is that as the polar bears are driven south they are moving into grizzy, Kodiak and other brown bear country.
There have even been recent cases of the two species interbreeding leading to some most unusual brown and polar bear hybrids.
This trend had worried many scientists and those concerned with the long term future of Canada’s wildlife.
The most immediate threat to polar bears, and the one most easy to do something about, however, is hunting.
Those thousand polar bears hunted in Canada every year are a key factor in stopping the population from growing to healthier levels.
Canada sells polar bear hunting licenses to trophy hunters from all over the world as well as allowing indigenous Northern tribes to continue what is described as traditional hunting.
Polar Bears are protected under national law and international treaty, so Canada’s polar bears can, in theory, only be harvested by Inuit hunters for subsistence.
A neat loophole in the law however allows the Inuit to sell their right to kill the bears on to others if they are guided in the hunt by the Inuit.
Hunting companies sell special packages including the right to kill a magnificent polar bear to rich hunters from the USA or, increasingly from China, Scandinavia or Russia.
A twelve day hunt including dogsleds, tented camps, Inuit guide and bringing the trophy bearskin and skull home can cost as much as £35,000. Yet there is no shortage of hunters ready to pay the money for the dubious thrill of slaughtering the great white bear.
Canada is the only nation in the world that allows polar bear hunting by non-natives trophy hunters. They do it in search of a quick buck. A good bit of that £35,000 finds its way into the country’s coffers.
The Canadian Government is also involved in the selling of many polar bears skins every season. Again money is the driving force.
The hunt itself is horrific. Specially trained dogs chase the polar bear until it is exhausted. Only then does the hunter shoot the distressed and terrified bear.
The so-called sportsman might use a high powered rifle but increasingly popular is the use of bows and arrows or crossbows. These often mean that several arrows are needed before the animal is finally killed.
Pressure on the Canadian Government to stop the slaughter is increasing. But time is of the essence. The survival of the polar bear is far too important to be threatened by Canada’s greed or the blood lust of a few rich hunters.
Frosty took a holiday in Canada touring the National Parks of Ontario and Quebec by motorhome. His holiday was organised by The Camping and Caravanning Club. www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/travelabroad
This article first appeared in the Morning Star in October 2013