© Marie-Chantal Marchand / WWF-Canada

Hamlet of Arviat and WWF-Canada celebrate success of Human-Polar Bear Conflict Reduction Project

31 January 2013

Polar bear Canada Wildlife Communities

The Hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut and World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada) are pleased to announce that after two increasingly successful years of the WWF-Hamlet of Arviat Human-Polar Bear Conflict Reduction Project, there were no Defence of Life and Property (DLP) polar bear kills in Arviat in 2012, the first time there have been no kills in at least three years. This three-year project provides funding to help the Hamlet of Arviat reduce instances of conflict between the polar bear subpopulation of western Hudson Bay and the community of Arviat.

This news comes as WWF celebrates Year of the Polar Bear, marking 40 years of polar bear conservation leadership from polar bear range states, including Canada.

“In recent years, the community of Arviat has reported more and more polar bears near the town,” said Ed Murphy, Senior Administrative Officer for Arviat. “Reasons for this are unclear, but likely include climate related changes in sea ice habitat patterns forcing more bears to stay along the coast, and increases in Arviat’s population creating more bear attractants, including garbage at the dump. The community is increasingly concerned with the threat polar bears pose not just to property, but also to children and sled dogs. The support of WWF-Canada has allowed the Hamlet to implement additional measures to minimize conflicts between the community and the bears that pass through the area on their annual fall migration.”

Beginning in 2011, this project allowed the Hamlet to hire a polar bear monitor to patrol from midnight to 8 a.m. from October through December, the three-month period with the most bear activity in the region. The monitor, experienced local hunter and wildlife worker Leo Ikakhik, used spotlights and bear bangers to discourage bears that approached the community. The Hamlet also provided steel bins for storing country and dog food, and installed electric deterrent fences around several of the community’s dog team pens, which greatly reduced the threat bears pose to dogs owned by community members. These measures reduced the number of bears lingering in and near the community, and in 2012 there were no DLP polar bear kills in Arviat, compared to three in 2011 and eight in 2010. The local wildlife conservation officers from the Government of Nunavut also indicated that reports of polar bears in or near the community were significantly reduced this year due to the program’s effectiveness.

WWF is committed to supporting the program in the fall of 2013 and looks forward to its continued success.

“This project directly protects the community and the polar bear population, as well as increases community awareness of the situation,” said Bob Leonard, Mayor of Arviat. “While this program has another year to run and we expect it will continue to be successful, there are other things we can do to reduce the conflict between people and polar bears in and near Arviat. Better food storage containers for dog team owners, improved community waste management, and support to continue our bear monitor program past this project’s initial three years will all help ensure our community’s safety. With ongoing support, we can hopefully continue to reduce conflict between people and polar bears in Arviat, and promote the harmonious and mutually dependent relationship with nature that the people of Arviat value so highly.”

“Conservation partnerships that benefit both key wildlife species and local communities and their livelihoods, are essential to ensuring long-term health and safety for both in a rapidly changing Arctic. WWF is proud of our partnership with Arviat, and hopes that these successes and approaches will be replicated in other Arctic communities experiencing such polar bear-human conflicts,” said Pete Ewins, WWF-Canada’s Arctic species conservation expert.

The WWF-Hamlet of Arviat Human-Polar Bear Conflict Reduction Project was generously supported by donations from Coca-Cola Canada and other funders, as well as the Government of Nunavut.