In Nunavut and the Northwest Territories of Canada, indigenous people may choose to fill part of their quota by offering a guided hunt to non-indigenous people using traditional methods of hunting. In this way, guided hunting activities represent an economic opportunity for some residents of northern Aboriginal communities who have few other sources of income. This guided hunt represents only a portion of the quotas (historically a maximum of 20% of the overall harvest).
The cost of a single guided hunt can help to finance an Inuit family’s yearly expenses, including food, clothing and utilities. Thus, while polar bears are essential to the social and cultural fabric of Nunavut communities, they also represent an indispensable source of income in an area of Canada where there are few lasting economic alternatives. Eliminating the market for guide hunts and trade in polar bear hides would effectively remove revenue from an area of Canada that needs it the most – but it will not change the way polar bears are managed, and will not change the number of bears that are harvested by Inuit.
In order to hunt a polar bear, a non-indigenous hunter must buy a tag from one of the communities, and hire a local guide. The hunt is conducted using traditional methods, including the use of dog teams as a means of transportation. The meat from the bear is given back to the community. It is important to note that there is no separate quota for guided hunting polar bears; guided hunts do not increase the overall harvest.
Tags are allocated through a local hunters committee consisting of knowledgeable Inuit hunters. Each community then decides how they want to use the tags – they can be used for subsistence hunting or for guided hunting. Some communities do not permit any guided hunts.