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An Unbiased Perspective Of The History Of Polar Bear Hunters

/ Post by Katie Billing of Polar Bears International 

Many of you have read about Kali, the orphaned polar bear cub found near the Alaska village of Point Lay. A subsistence hunter killed Kali’s mother. Many may ask, “I thought polar bears were threatened? How come polar bears are still hunted?” I hope to answer some questions regarding polar bear hunting laws.

Who can hunt polar bears in Canada?

There are four types of hunters in Canada. Subsistence hunters, supplemental hunters, Canadian sport hunters, and foreign sport hunters. Some Inuit and Canadian hunters are considered as subsistence hunters meaning that they are native Canadians who depend on catching, hunting, or gathering of wild game and fish for food or products for sustenance. Subsistence hunters are to utilize their resources or let it go to waste. They are not allowed to sell, trade, or exchange their products with other people. Supplemental hunters are any native Canadian hunter who is not eligible to be a subsistence hunter. Supplemental hunters have a residence that is located beyond reasonable daily round-trip commuting. Canadian sports hunters are those who are not eligible to be supplemental or subsistence hunters. Foreign hunters are people who hunt in Canada who are not Canadian.

What is the history of polar bear hunters?

We have to take a step back to look at the origins of hunting in the Arctic. In early history Inuit people have hunted various arctic animals to utilize the materials for survival. Furs were used for warmth, and meat serves as a food source. As commerce began the indigenous Canadian people were involved in the fur and ivory trade. Narwhal horns and walrus tusks were among the valuable items traded with other countries. As the rest of civilization evolved, indigenous people continue livelihood with traditional customs mixed with current affairs. New laws and international regulations were set fourth to protect Earth’s dwindling species and the livelihood of Inuit people was drastically affected. The European Union created a ban in 2009 on the trade of seal pelts and meat. Ivory trade has been completely restricted due to the ban designed to protect elephants and rhinos. In the United States, polar bears are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. This means it is illegal in the United States to take a species listed in the MMPA and transport/import them or their products. Besides foxes, wolves, and arctic hare, polar bears are one of the last large game species involved in Inuit trade. Inuits are still employed by International big game trophy hunters. This business supports the indigenous community because local supplies are purchased and bear pelts, claws, and teeth can be sold within the community (unless they are subsistence hunters).

Canada also currently has laws regarding hunting polar bears to fulfill annual quotas set by territorial governments.