Investing in polar bear conservation, protection and science

Environment Canada is playing a key role in the conservation of Canadian polar bear populations - a responsibility that we share with the provinces and territories, and regional wildlife management boards.

Coordination among the provinces, territories, wildlife management boards and the federal government is carried out through the Polar Bear Administrative Committee, supported by the work of the Polar Bear Technical Committee.

Environment Canada’s domestic actions include:

International action

There are an estimated 20 000 to 25 000 polar bears worldwide. Canada is home to approximately 16 000 polar bears, while the rest of the population is found in Russia, Greenland, Norway and the United States (in Alaska).

Environment Canada is working with its international partners, including NGO’s, to coordinate our efforts in polar bear conservation. Our international actions include:

Research

Environment Canada is combining science, experience and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to form the basis for our research. The inclusion of Traditional Knowledge helps to provide information on polar bear abundances, movements, behaviours, and provides valuable long term perspective on changes in the population. This approach is unique, as Canada is the only country that considers Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in the management and conservation of polar bear.

Cooperative research is often undertaken where the project is of interest to several jurisdictions, including the United States (Alaska), Denmark (Greenland), and Norway.  Some research projects conducted by university researchers are coordinated with government scientists. 

Other projects are supported by funds from wildlife management boards established by the land claims process, by independent foundations, and through grants to graduate students who are co-supervised by government and university researchers. 

Current research initiatives by Environment Canada include:

  • Impacts of climate change
    Long-term ongoing research on the ecology, population dynamics, and status of polar bears in relation to environmental change

  • Impacts of oil and gas development
    Monitoring of polar bear denning activity in the Mackenzie Delta in relation to proposed resource development

  • Development of monitoring techniques
    As a member of the Polar Bear Technical Committee, Environment Canada is participating in discussions of the development of alternative monitoring techniques for polar bears

  • Delineation of subpopulations
    As a member of the Polar Bear Technical Committee, Environment Canada is participating in discussions of techniques to re-assess and delineate polar bear sub-populations

  • Assessments of population status
    Supporting of ongoing efforts to monitor status and trends of polar bear populations and is actively engaged in status assessments at the national and international level

  • Traditional knowledge
    EC recognizes that polar bears play an important role in the socio-economical and cultural well being of aboriginal peoples and further recognizes that TK, in concert with western science, should be used in polar bear management decisions

  • Link to S&T Experts page (ex. Nick Lunn)
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