We’re shooting polar bears?!?

International fur buyers are snapping up pelts at record prices. Nicholas Kohler went inside the auction house.

We're shotting polar bears?!?

Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

When lot No. 19002—a polar bear skin more than 10 feet in length—came up for auction in North Bay, Ont., a few Saturdays ago, Zhiqing Xu lifted his hand in the air and just left it there. The unorthodox manoeuvre forced Mark Downey, the auctioneer at the time, to belt out the skin’s rocketing price in one long, voice-destroying tear. Beside Xu sat his 21-year-old son Jason, who acted as interpreter and whispered a running translation of Downey’s rapid-fire patter into his father’s ear: “$53 is here, fiftythreefiftyfourfiftyfiveandfiftysixandfiftyseven, $57 is left, $58 is Billy, $59, and $60’s there—HOOO!!!—$60’s right, it’s on the right at $60—HOOO!!!—your bid’s sixtyoneandsixtytwo . . . ”

Even as the dollar figure soared, that arm stayed fixed, raised in a gesture that told competing bidders: back off. Xu, who moved to Vancouver from Beijing several years ago, went on to capture lot No. 19002. The price: $8,400. He spent thousands more on a second polar bear hide and a timber wolf skin. “Polar bear is a rare animal,” Jason, translating for his father, later told Maclean’s. “Not a lot of other places sell them—only Canada.”

Only Canada and, but for the small handful of polar bear pelts available each year at a competing auction house in Toronto, only at the Fur Harvesters Auction in North Bay, a town of 54,000 a few hours north of Toronto perched on the frozen lip of Lake Nipissing, a Group of Seven winter postcard come to life. The auction, which specializes in wild rather than ranched fur—from beaver to bobcat to muskrat to raccoon and coyote—has operated here in one form or another since 1947 and has long attracted international buyers. In the past, those fur shoppers came mainly from the U.S., Italy, Greece and other traditional fur-buying nations.

That’s changing. This auction was Jason and Zhiqing Xu’s first time here. Their purchases, which they said were destined for China as gifts, make them part of a growing cohort of new fur buyers with roots in mainland China and Russia, where an appetite for fur, and above all white fur from Canada’s Arctic North, is pushing to unprecedented heights prices for Arctic wolf, Arctic fox and—especially—polar bear pelts.

Photo gallery: the flourishing business of polar bear pelts

Many Canadians are likely unaware of the international trade in polar bear skins, particularly since the animal has become a sort of four-legged shorthand for climate change—that solitary beast swimming into a vast expanse of iceless sea in An Inconvenient Truth. That loss of habitat, an undeniable reality in the southern Hudson Bay and elsewhere, has triggered an ongoing debate about the health of Canada’s polar bear population, one that frequently pits scientists and environmentalists in the South against Inuit in the North. Each year, Aboriginal hunters and foreign sportsmen pursuing the animals alongside Aboriginal guides kill some 500 polar bears (there is no federal cap, and that number depends on shifts in geographic harvest quotas and on First Nations treaties). Many of the resulting polar bear skins find their way to market.

The North Bay auction—with its quick monologue of soaring numbers and the auctioneer’s spotters alongside him pointing out new bids with howls of “up, up, up,” and whooping “hooooos”—is never more electric than when the floor opens for polar bear skins. Some 84 were available on Jan. 7, 48 of those permitted for export. “When the market’s hot,” says Downey, who is also Fur Harvesters’ CEO, “you can really feel it.”

And while wealthy clients in Europe, the U.S. and Japan once shelled out top dollar for fishing flies finished with polar bear fur, polar bear rugs and for stuffed polar bears—the fur-covered totems we all know from nature museums and airport terminals—the market has shifted. “The price is going higher because we were missing two big nations—Russia and China,” says Carlo Guida, a long-time Italian buyer from Naples wearing a luxurious purple cashmere sweater. “Now, what we liked before, they like today. The difference is, these two countries represent half the world.”

In the past, raw, untreated polar bear skins rarely fetched much more than $5,000—and usually much less than that. Not anymore. “The last two years they’ve gone up by over 200 per cent,” says Dag Larsen, a Toronto broker scouting furs for clients in Greece, Russia and Norway, and who was dressed in one of the white lab coats that buyers wear to protect their clothes from the oily pelts (Fur Harvesters supplies nail brushes in the bathroom for those going through beaver). Surrounding him, flat and lifeless as great autumn leaves, lay the dozens of polar bear skins slated for auction the next day. Bids for what ended up being the dearest skin, a spotless white specimen that was also over 10 feet in length, started at $7,000 and didn’t stop until they’d reached $12,400—$1,400 more than last year’s top seller, a previous record. It went to Anna and Steve Gao, whose Mississauga, Ont.-based business, Canadian Intertrade JJ Ltd., ships furs to China and elsewhere.

Demand from Russia and China is one reason prices are high. Another is concern that the trade in polar bear parts will soon be banned. That could happen in early 2013, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will meet in the Thai resort town of Pattaya. In 2010, the last round of negotiations among CITES members, American delegates, pressed by a powerful environmental lobby, pushed to “uplist” polar bears to Appendix 1 of the agreement, a designation that would have put an end to the commercial sale of their parts on the world market. Canada vigorously opposed the bid, arguing that trade poses no risk to the species and that a prohibition would do economic harm to the Inuit. Indeed, Canada tends to be bullish on the health of our polar bears. Though the U.S. classified it as a threatened species in 2008, the polar bear has been listed here as a “species of special concern” since 1991, a step below “threatened” and two below “endangered.” The designation hasn’t been without controversy, both domestic and international. The stakes are high: 15,000 of the world’s 25,000 or so polar bears live here, and many scientists and environmentalists argue the species is in greater peril than the listing reflects. Most Inuit, as well as the federal and territorial governments, on the other hand, say any assessment should take into account traditional Aboriginal knowledge, and that polar bear populations are healthy or even increasing.

The U.S. lost its bid to uplist polar bears; it will likely redouble its efforts in 2013. Hence the high prices. “It’s sort of the last-chance-to-buy phenomenon,” says Andrew Derocher, a polar bear biologist at the University of Alberta. “That’s one of the real rubs here—we’re the only international supplier of hides right now. And, of course, that makes us a little bit vulnerable.” The possibility of a worldwide ban wasn’t lost on North Bay’s buyers, who know that the January auction and a second Fur Harvesters sale in June may represent a final opportunity to buy. “It’s just a matter of time,” says Winston Shi, a 30-year-old marketing analyst who lives in Markham, Ont., and who was bidding for skins as a collector. “This could be the last chance.”

Mark Downey is a fur evangelist. A solidly built man, he began in the business as a trapper, still harvests beaver, and learned to handle high-tempo auctions while still very young, after an auctioneer known for steering bids with a shot of whisky in his hand got fed up, shoved him in front of buyers and left. “The fur business gets into your blood,” he says. “The best people in the world are the trappers that catch the product and the crew of people you deal with from all walks of life.” Within that business—for Downey anyway—nothing beats wild fur. “It’s unique,” he says. “Like fingerprints.”

The wild fur business is equally singular. It is ancient, and to witness a bidding war at Fur Harvesters, over Arctic fox or beaver, is to watch unfold one of this country’s founding rituals. Samuel de Champlain’s part in a bloody 17th-century Aboriginal conflict known as the Beaver Wars is crucial to our history, and Downey claims it’s just by accident that the Fur Harvesters’ street number on North Bay’s Bond Street is 1867. Here, the windowless showrooms, ripe with the heady odour of dried animal skins, drip with bobcat and timber wolf, foxes of all regions and colours, with squirrel and fisher. Grizzly pelts cover the floor in one room, black bear another, and downstairs stand endless racks of dried, stretched beaver. This is where Canada Goose sources much of the coyote fur it uses to trim its coats and jackets—“that company’s on fire, we can’t supply enough,” says Downey—and where northern outfitters pick up the dense wolverine used to trim Arctic parkas.

In another room the 80 or so polar bear skins lay strewn—a visitor can’t help but imagine the skins springing to lumbering life—and the tire-kickers flip through them looking at quality, the skill with which the hunter cut the pelt from the carcass (a solid five hours work when done right), ferreting out unwanted scars from now-forgotten fights. Less white than yellow, the fur is often stained by the fat of seals, the polar bear’s primary staple, giving the hide a pale orange hue. Tanners arrive in the days prior to auction to showcase their fur prowess—the bluish-purple raccoon furs are big in Russia—and to quietly advise buyers on what skins to focus on at auction, eyeing the imperfections with the attention of diamond appraisers.

The buyers know each other from competing on the auction floor here, at Fur Harvesters’ much larger annual auction in Seattle, and from major fur shows in Beijing, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Milan. The camaraderie runs deep. In North Bay, Guida, the Naples-based furrier, made arrangements to take over the kitchen of a local Italian restaurant and made everyone spaghetti.

Though Canada’s polar bear populations are generally well managed, some geographic zones, like Baffin Bay and the Kane Basin in Nunavut’s Far North, have not been inventoried in 15 years, even though their harvest rates remain relatively high. “Fifteen years is a long time,” says the U of A’s Derocher. “Especially when you’re trying to maximize harvest.” There’s good evidence the spike in polar bear prices has contributed to over-harvesting in at least one jurisdiction—Quebec, a province that enforces no quota. Early this year, word spread that hunters from the northern Quebec community of Inukjuak had killed as many as 70 polar bears last season—an enormous jump over past years and an unsustainable harvest rate for the southern Hudson Bay polar bear population, which scientists worry is already under pressure from climate change. Ontario, Nunavut and Quebec, which share the population, later hammered out a deal on the number of polar bears they could harvest between them, settling on 56 bears. Yet even that may be too high, says U of A research scientist Ian Stirling, who draws an analogy with the Atlantic cod fishery: “People kept saying, ‘There’s lots of cod, there’s lots of cod, there’s lots of cod,’ until there weren’t any. There’s a risk the same could happen in some polar bear populations.”

The spike in kills around Inukjuak is thought to have begun when a buyer arrived in the region and announced he’d pay big money in advance for furs. “Suddenly hunters heard, ‘People will give us money even before we hunt!’ ” says Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management for the Nunavut government. “Then when people started hunting all these bears, really, the money they got was not a lot—$2,000, $3,000 a hide.” It wouldn’t be the first time southerners have taken advantage of Inuit hunters. For decades, private buyers from as far away as Japan made the trek north, moving from community to community picking up cheap skins. In the Northwest Territories, government bureaucrats once offered hunters just $250 per pelt in advance of whatever the skin fetched at auction months later. Only a handful of hunters accepted the offer, preferring to sell skins outright for quick cash—often as little as $3,000 a bear. Francois Rossouw, who manages the government program, told the hunters that the foreign buyers were making much more money off the bears: “But these guys [the hunters] needed money.”

This year, in response to the hot market and to stabilize hunters’ earnings, the Northwest Territories upped the ante, offering advances of $1,750. That incentive has suddenly put the territorial government in control of almost all the skins taken in the jurisdiction, a system that is beefing up the government’s capacity to track furs. Thanks to an exclusive marketing contract with Fur Harvesters, those skins are being funnelled through the North Bay auction, which has a similar agreement with Nunavut. The approach gives Fur Harvesters CEO Downey obvious satisfaction. “They ship them down here under one venue and we advertise to the world and the world comes here,” he says. “You find out exactly what the real price is and the hunter’s getting what he should be getting.” He adds: “I started as a trapper and it’s my job to fight like a tiger to get as much money as I can for the guy who’s getting his hands cold, wet and dirty.”

That sense of satisfaction was only deepened by the auction results for Jan. 7, when foreign buyers, many of them inexperienced, rushed to outbid the old hands in the room. “This is what you call pissing money into the wind,” one fur business veteran said after abandoning one round of bids. “It’s hard work, raising your hand,” he explained. The new buyers went on to enter bidding wars amongst themselves, ratcheting prices up even higher—free of gravity, to a place where the air became too thin to support the purchases. “Some people, they screw the market—they don’t know what they’re doing,” says a 28-year-old man named Hawk who moved to Canada from mainland China some years ago and describes himself as a full-time hunter. “That’s why the price is going higher and higher.”

Soon another bidder, in a now familiar move, raised his hand and parked it high above his head. It was one long, continuous salute to soaring prices. After a while, with bids still mounting, the buyer made a show of using his second arm to support the bidding one; he had no plans to let this skin go. Downey, on break from his auctioneer’s duties, chuckled at the man. Slipping past the other bidders, smiling broadly, Downey slapped him on the back and, congratulating him on his new skin, discretely placed a clutch of Cuban cigars on the table in front of him.

A champion of trappers and hunters, Downey had good reason to be happy. Those rocketing prices are great for the North and for Inuit hunters. Many Canadians may wonder if it’s a price worth paying.

We’re shooting polar bears?!?

  1. How sad I was to see a beautiful young bear being hunted his long beautiful fur flowing about him
    And there behind him a truck the next thing seeing this magnificent creature rolling over in agony before he died
    Why? for what to end up on someones floor?
    t
    To me this is murder of life, beauty and of a living breathing creature who should be allowed to live in peace not fear
    Why is our government here in Canada not moving to protect them before it is to late it is obviou to anyone that this mass killing of the bears cannot continue
    With China and Russia wanting skins soon these poor creatures will become extinct what with the ice flows giving out and drownings taking place I notice this is not mentioned and other factors involved in their deaths
    Canadians and Americans should band together in stopping the export of Polar Bear hides before it is too late

    • The polar bear was always being hunted by the Inuit…for food and its pelt ended up their floor and on their winter clothes and on their bedding. 
      Maybe it would make you feel better if the CBC showed pictures of Inuit children (ala Attawapiskat) living in less than ideal conditions and you will understand their need to see some of the pelts for some hard cash.

      • thats bullshit buddy the guys that hunt these things never see 8000 bucks or whatever they get at auction.

  2. Is this the real reason why there is a reduction in polar bear numbers?

    If it is or isn’t, the idea of shooting these bears for pelts strikes me as ridiculous.  There is just no end to the destruction wrought by the covetousness of the over-moneyed owners of private money-sequence looting systems.  

    When all of the non-human, natural system dependent life forms have been hunted into extinction, who will the hunter’s exercise their art upon?  All because somebody has more sheets of paper or numbers on an account?

    • You may wonder why the First Nations people of our country struggle..well examine what you are implying…that Inuit people should abandon their age-old way of life because they are “hunters”.  All First Nations people are hunters and part of their treaty agreements were that they can hunt year round.   They stay within the quotas, they eat the meat of the animals they kill.  They use the pelts for their homes and clothing…if they can sell the pelts to make money to buy other necessities, why not do so and keep thier dignity.  If quotas are properly set by provincial governments, then there won’t be over-hunting.  I don’t believe that you understand that if the hunting were to stop altogether, it would be a disaster…there would be an overpopulation of polar bears…this results in weakend, starving animals with not enough habitat to sustain the numbers.  It also results in animals who start hunting close to human communities because they are desperately hungry. 
      If you want to protect species, you ensure proper monitoring and proper quota systems.

      • I realize that there is a temptation, in reading my post, to think that I am against hunting or that I am for hunting, but only if practiced in “ancient” ways.  No, that isn’t what I am on about.  

        I object to the MARKET for polar bear skins.  This market, unless taxed and regulated into oblivion, will wipe out the polar bears.  If the hunt is kept and contained within the Inuit community as part of their cultural heritage or extended out into a large project of cultural exchange, then the polar bear population will not only be kept away from encroaching upon human settlements, but the validity of their being, as an end-in-itself value, will be retained as well.    

        Once the mind is turned by the glamour of the almighty dollar into accepting the commoditization of non-human life (heck! humans too!!) and life sustaining systems, then it is game over. There simply becomes no way to satisfy the ratcheting demands of stake/rights holders of the market.  

        • It has long been the practice that rich foreigners have come to Canada to hunt and people in ‘hunting country`have made big money off of these hunters.  However, quota systems have kept things from becoming problematic because if you break the rules and over-hunt, you might get one pay-out but then you lose your way of life.

  3. A couple of years ago, I watched an Inuit couple dismantle a polar bear in the science lab of Kimmirut’s school. The man was a guide for some sporthunters. He basically did the work, and they shot the bear. He and his wife demonstrated how to skin a bear and harvest the meat. The hunters took the pelt home, while the guide got the meat and and a handsome sum of money. 

    I’m all for stringent monitoring of polar bear populations, and setting quotas based on those numbers. But the notion that Inuit should forego a source of food, income and an avenue to preserve their culture because someone who’s never been to the Arctic personally finds the polar bear hunt distasteful is profoundly condescending.

    • I disagree profoundly.  If the Inuit need polar bear meat as a food source – a dubious claim – or a cultural good – better likelihood, great, I have no problem with that provided they monitor and manage, which they have shown in the past great competence in doing.  In the past, that is, when there wasn’t an international market for the fur skins.  This new factor changes the game completely and puts too great a temptation to monetize the ritual hunt/food source use for it’s souvenir/life-blind market exchange value.   Like it or lump it, the Inuit (and their attendant euroriginal homme sauvage fetishizing clique), are part of a larger world now.  If Inuit claim benevolent stewardship over the Arctic non-human life as culture good, the end-in-itself life value of that life must be acknowledged and thereby completely walled off from privately owned money sequencing transactions.  There is simply way too much money, available to some people practically for free, in relation to the number of polar bears, even at 10 times the going rate.  Individuals claiming non-existent transaction & monetization drawing rights, for purposes of exchange with extra-community non-participants, on commons-context community life systems is the licensed decommissioning of the life system’s non-human participants.    

      Ergo: the polar bears need a robust exemption and rigorous protection* from being treated as mere resource available for the taking; as mere meat; as mere walking sack of cash.  Their cultural value is irreplaceable.  To hazard the risk of population destabilization and possible extinction would be folly.  Especially when the exchanged for good is nothing more than colourful paper.   Now, if the Inuit were to develop a means by which ritual hunt derived polar bear skins became a cultural good of the Canadian peoples, that has potential.  As it aught be acknowledged that under some, likely very rare circumstances, the will be some surplus fur skins.  

      *This protection should be extended to a great many things.  Doing so would mean civil war, but that is another matter.   

      Edit: fetishisting changed to fetishizing

      • “Ergo: the polar bears need a robust exemption and rigorous protection* from being treated as mere resource available for the taking; as mere meat; as mere walking sack of cash. ”

        They already do. It’s called harvest quotas.

        • But I admit that Quebec is a problem, since they don’t restrict hunting with quotas.

          • They do now, don’t they?

        • They don’t have protection against being monetized; being treated as walking sacks of cash, the process is just restricted.  The predicate assumptions are completely different. (Edit) By which I mean harvest quotas vs. end-in-itself life value.

          • Explain to me how it makes any difference if an Inuit person kills a polar bear (under the quota), eats the meat and sells the pelt for $12K rather than keeping the pelt for himself?  He still has to abide by a quota EXCEPT in Quebec.  It seems to me that your beef should be with the Quebec government that does not have a quota in place, instead of with the inuit who are seizing on a business opportunity to make money on a practice that they were already doing (hunting & eating polar bears under a quota system).  If the polar bears numbers are falling, then the quotas should be tightened….it seems to me that it is pretty simple to figure out that one family can only eat so much bear so only award them so many hunting tags.

          • I have already explained it.*  You just don’t understand the explanation.  Explaining it again to you would require me repeating my post exactly.  So, you really just need to re-read my post above.  Unfortunately this will require some patience and application on your part.  Most people are not terribly keen on that, so, no biggie if you have to bail out.  I have been as careful as I am capable, which might be “not very”.  Every word and phrase is put in with honesty and intent.  

            *Here is a hint: I center your misunderstanding of my posting upon the fact that you take the entailments of “seizing a business opportunity” as a given when, in fact, they are mostly, for you, completely undefined and therefore, in practice, end up meaning just about what ever one wants them to mean.  As a result, you fail to grasp how and why this “seizing” is in fact, the royal road to their ruin.  I make this claim because the evidence for it is amply supplied by a broad survey of the human condition, global, from the early modern period to the present.  

            I realize that your interests lay in seeing that they may come to afford some level of comfort and dignity.  A noble sentiment.  It is your undiagnosed  tacit approval of the fraud “comparative advantage” that I hunt & aim to make a fur skin out of.  

          • The auction house gets the 12K. The hunter has been paid a fraction of that.

          • I will excuse your snarky comments but I actually posted the two comments at the same time.  I did not read your reply and then ask you to reiterate it.
            What you and I disagree on is: 1) your assertion that the Inuit will now hunt for the pelt and 2) that quotas won`t keep over-hunting from occuring.    I believe that the Inuit will see the long-term sense in not over-hunting because then they won`t have any polar bears left to hunt and that the quota system can keep the lure of big money from affecting the polar bear population…afterall, even though you only became aware of the practice within the last few days, polar bear pelts have been `selling in the past for $5K`….if the Inuit didn`t overhunt when they were $3K to $5K, why would then start now.

          • You prove my point amply.  You seem only to see this problem in terms of the whether or not the quota is set to the correct level and whether or not the dollar value is acceptable.  It is precisely this mode of reasoning that I take umbrage with.  No major non-human life form has survived, excepting the domesticated species, when a market (regardless of which culture the market becomes situated in) deems them more valuable dead than alive.  (Rinos, Tigers, Elephants, Blue Fin Tuna, Whales, Great Plains Bison, Bears, Wolves, etc & ad nauseum).  I think that you are activating modes of thought specifically designed to blind yourself to the problem.  Humanities record of cashing in on the large mammals is to bleak to trust.

            Creating a market for polar bear skins – or allowing this one to continue – as a sop for the injustice and economic depredation the Inuit have suffered is stealing from Peter to pay Paul; attempting to assuage one injustice with another.

            I know that there is, with in the Inuit culture, members capable of acts of significant cultural importance beyond their traditional realm.  I do not think that these people can survive w/o an ongoing close connection to the major non-human mammals of north.  Protecting one protects the other.*

            * Added: One should infer that my position is that quotas are not sufficient protection.

          • I just love it how outsiders who never spent a day up north can have so many solutions for us. Trying to fit these southern views into a northern society is very….entertaining. Most mlitists have always had too many views and solutions born out of their money loving society. I dare you “ColdStanding” to bring these ideas of yours up north. You seem to have a brain on you (condescending though it is), maybe you should tone down your elitist attitude before you go else you will be sleeping at the all the airports. But I’m sure your attitude and righteous indignation can keep you company. Till then just stay out of our way and keep your snide remarks to yourself, it does nothing but makes you feel just a bit better in your wasteful southern lifestyle.

      • You are correct that polar bears’ cultural value is irreplaceable. Their value as food is  an intrinsic part of their cultural value. The two values are inseparable. I suppose that’s just “euroriginal homme sauvage fetishisting,” but what the hell do I know, I just lived there for five years and have Inuit friends. It’s all too easy to disregard other people’s cultural values when you don’t know anything about them as, you know, actual people.

        As for “transaction & monetization drawing rights,” that’s seems to be a fancy way of saying… what exactly? The Inuit have relied on polar bears and other Arctic mammals for a long time. It used to be solely for food, and now, because of a partial transition to a cash economy (which, by the way, was not asked for by the Inuit), they must rely on this kind of cash income to buy food flown thousands of kilometres (GHG emissions) that cannot be prepared in a traditional way that helps reinforce social bonds. Oh and by the way, Inuit children suffer some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the country. So the answer is what, flying in more frozen pizzas? Have you ever shopped at a Northern store?

        “The Inuit are part of a larger world now…” Yes, it’s true. But they, like every other culture on the face of the planet should be allowed to try to find their way through that dizzying world on their own terms instead of being subject to a barrage a pseudo-academic doublespeak from the likes of yourself.

        • How do you see a phrase “non-existent transaction & monetization drawing rights”, especially given the rest of the sentence, and then ask me to be more exact?  Where have I failed to be exact?  How are you even in a position to calibrate my degree of exactness, when you don’t even understand what I am saying?  Surely the fault rests in the insufficiency of your powers of comprehension.  

          And taking me to task with a charge of “pseudo-academic double speak.”  What truculence!   It is all the more galling when my carefully constructed frame of reference affords the opportunity to deactivate the deleterious dynamic which you participated directly in and continue, to this very day, to enable with your gatekeeper/Stockholm syndrome  mentality.  With a “friend” like you, Windeyer, who needs enemies?  

      • Your commits are INCONSIQUENTIAL…go to your local farm animal and see how your animals are raised for your consumption…and butchered…Now explain to me who`s inhuman. At least the animals we harvest had the freedom to live wild.

        • Dear hunter of the north:
                Look for the sun in the sky, ’bout noon time.  Turn and look the opposite direction & you’ll  find what you’re look’n for.  

          Sincerely,
          ColdStanding

          • You’re aware that the sun doesn’t actually rise much at this time of year in the Arctic, aren’t you? If you’re telling him to look down, you fail.

          • Where did I tell him to look down?  
            Since when does looking south constitute looking down?  I thought it at least safe to assume some given knowledge on his part for everyone should know that to look for the sun one aught look up.  Your if/then scenario returns a negative, therefore I do not fail.  

  4. Once again I would like to point out that while hunting the white bear is a native tradition for a few select groups, hunting them with a rifle and gasoline powered vehicles is not a tradition. The distinction needs to be made, if you wish to hunt the white bear grab a spear and go for it.

    • It’s not allowed to hunt bears in the traditional manner anymore. A person asked permission from a local HTO once and was denied. It is far too dangerous to do it that way anymore. Guns have been used in hunting in the Arctic by well over a hundred years by Inuit. That argument is tired. Put away your computer and write a letter to the editor the traditional way ( with a pen and paper) if you want to break things down to such an unrealistic and irrelevant level.

      • Interesting, tradition is “unrealistic and irrelevant”. The calm and rational expectation of doing things ‘traditional’ in the ‘traditional’ way is ‘unrealistic and irrelevant’. Your rationalization does not hold up I am afraid, traditionally speaking.

    • Are you so dumb…or did your mom raise you that way….such ignorance and stupidity…your ancester started off with spears and bow and arrows…what moron your mom raised.

      •  dumb, lol, more sad rationalization… sorry I do not hunt. My ancestors also lived in a cave and had open fires, I live in a house with a furnace, how about you? Still living in an igloo and burning seal fat to keep warm? ya… sure you are…

    • Cleargreen, I aways took you for a compassionate person….instanteous death by a bullet to the head is a far  more humane way of hunting than spearing an animal to death.  If we insisted people return to that practice, Europeans whould really be in a fluster…clubbing seals and spearing bears.

  5. Funny, this article neglects to mention the fact that these bears are not hunted ‘just for pelts’. In fact they are hunted under strict and sustainable quotas, the meat is all used and eaten. To think and say otherwise is a threat to the food security of Arctic peoples. Every pelt sold has been harvested under strict management and you can bet your bottom dollar it filled the belly of many a hungry belly in Nunavut or elsewhere.

    Do not forget that the in the Northern climes of Russia indigenous people hunt Polar Bear, in Greenland Inuit hunt the bear, and even in the old Polar-Bear-loving U.S. of A, indigenous people still have a sustainable hunt of Polar Bears. Can we end the environmentalist fetish with the Polar Bear for a moment and recognize that the hunting is sustainable and heavily monitored, the importance of the meat to the food security of Arctic people, and perhaps take note of Inuit knowledge regarding the animal?

    Scientists recently admitted that they could not produce accurate numbers regarding Polar Bear populations in Canada, some even conceding that Inuit estimates were more accurate. Publishing an article like this with such sensational headlines and cover photo is a detriment to our society and an insult to the Indigenous peoples of our Northern lands. At least you could have interviewed some people who actually harvested the bears to get a Northern and Indigenous perspective on the story.

  6. Talk about a snow-job…

    Habitat loss here is the problem, not overhunting. That’s why CITES considered uplisting. Polar bears are in trouble because of the declining sea ice, not because some rich yahoos want to shoot them.
    With the exception of Quebec, Canadian polar bear hunting is strongly regulated according to all the scientific data and traditional Inuit knowledge available.

    If you really want to save the polar bear, 1 – stop climate change (yeah, good luck with that),
    2 – get Ottawa to cough up cash for bear population surveys so hunting quotas can be more appropriate.

    This article makes a point of mentioning high harvest quotas for the populations of Baffin Bay and Kane Basin despite more than a decade since a population survey there. Ummm, that’s because that region is HUGE and remote and expensive to survey. And there are enough polar bears there that they are a public nuisance in the communities living there. You think raccoons are annoying? Try living around an animal that will not only shred your garbage can, but try to kill and eat you!Also, why is there no mention of WWF Canada, a highly respected green NGO, to discuss why they supported the polar bear hunt and opposed the CITES uplisting?

    As for the Americans putting polar bears on their endangered species list, spare me. It was a purely political move. If it had been out of sincere concern, the U.S. government would have closed polar bear territory to industrial expansion. That’s standard practice with endangered species. But U.S. polar bear territory has oil and gas, so guess how that goes…

  7. It’s the food chain and humans are at the top of it – maybe it’s time to just get over that – feeling guilty every time an animal is harvested is silly and a total detachment from reality.  If you’re vegan then okay – we can listen – you have a leg to stand on, but every living thing has an equal right to life – not just the cute and cuddly ones – even that chicken you stuffed in your face for dinner this evening.

    • Chickens reproduce at a far faster rate than polar bears given the polar bear’s specific and unique environment.  Given our current inability to develop a replacement life form for the polar bear, extreme caution is surely the order of the day, especially when so many other major life forms have been lost due to their inconvenience or lack of utility visa vie man’s interests and other circumstances. 

      You fail. 

      • Yawn

        • Good for you!  Acknowledging your failure is the first step. 

          • Actually I was yawning at your response.

          • You actually were?  I actually did realize how dense you are.  Now I actually know.  I actually think you should getoveryourself.

      • Visit a chicken factory farm and see how well they live. I’ll take wild meat over that any day. At least the animal didn’t live its entire life in misery. Congratulations, you’ve just endorsed one of the most inhumane food sources in the world!

        • No, I have not endorsed factory farming of chickens, though I have availed my self much of their products.*  I have simply stated that chickens reproduce at a faster rate than polar bears and thereby nullified the equivalence that Getoverit attempted to make.  Oh, and called for caution in encouraging a market for polar bear skins (edit), since it is far from clear that all the meat is actually being eaten.  It is a simple and obvious fact that a chicken and a polar bear are not equal beings, save through the most tortured reductio ab absurdum.  The plains buffalo was eaten for meat before the international market for their hides was commenced.  After, not so much.  As a result they were within a hairs breadth of being wiped out.  We may be seeing the same thing happening with the blue fin tuna in a vain attempt to sate the Tokyo fish market.  

          I know that you do not want that to happen to the polar bear, so don’t conflate my opposition to the polar bear fur skin market with an opposition to hunting or Inuit culture and practice.

          * & don’t play possum with me, if you live off wild meat, you know you are in a very privileged position.  W/O factory farming, though it is in need of serious reform, you’d very quickly find there is no wild meat to eat.

  8. It’s always the middle men like Downey who walk away with the easy money. The Inuit get the shaft either way.

  9. Seems to me that all these arguments are moot since the Polar Bear is doomed due to climate change.  

  10. Since China’s new rich are so fond of buying the hides of the world’s endangered animals may I suggest they start skinning one of the rarest land mammals…the giant panda. How about a few panda rugs to send to the relatives back home. That will show your status as a big shot. 

  11. As if they don’t have enough problems with climate change, invading oil industry and theyre still trapping them. This is insane. Human greed is disgusting!

  12. can someone plz give me a summary of this article in about 2 paragraphs
    that would really help me

  13. i also needed a summary for this article if someone could post one in the comment box that would be much appreicated

  14. sure fuking kill our only legendary polar bear. LIKE he’s ever done harm to you. This pisses me off. I wish I could trade the trapper in for a bear skin and then hunt the trapper for killing the bear.

    • polar bears do and have harmed people, they break in to tents and cabins destroying whats inside and its structure, making it more costly for the people. not to mention the high cost of living in the north. try going up north and live your life for a year so you can understand how costly it is, i bet you your jaw would drop when you go to the store and see the price of the food and whats in stock! While your at it, don’t forget to look at the expiry dates. makes you want to go hunting for your own food! and sell the fur for the cost of the gas, food, clothing, gun, bullets, anything else I left? snowmobile? canoe? the land does not grow veggies like the south to be a vegan with, and when they do get veggies, from being transported here to there, veggies loose its nutrition and its life… water.. how appealing to buy. so pretty much, what your saying is, save the animal and kill a human!

  15. You want to stop the illegal and legal world-wide depletion of endangered or other wildlife? Nuke China.

  16. My Name is Paige Genier

    I read the article – I am 12 years old and I know that shooting polar bears for sport is wrong.

    My town council has approved for Polar Bear Awareness Week in Cochrane Ontario – an 8 day event to stop the polar bear sport hunt in Canada.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQihRRxV5xA

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