Polar Bear Harvest Monitoring

Since the early 90’s, Nunavut has been closely monitoring all harvesting throughout the territory, in order to ensure sustainability of its harvests. Each year, data collected on harvests from each community are compiled to inform Total Allowable Harvest (TAH) levels for each polar bear subpopulation in the subsequent year, based on a flexible quota system.

Harvesters collect a variety of samples from each polar bear, including the lower jaw (teeth provide information on age), a small piece of fat (which can provide insight into prey being consumed), and the bacculum (penis bone) or reproductive tract for proof of sex. These samples contribute to many different research projects, including cooperative studies looking at contaminant levels in global polar bear populations and ongoing studies of polar bear diet and body condition. Nunavut is also in the process of developing an inventory of archived tissue samples that will support future research projects.In Newfoundland and Labrador harvest monitoring packages are prepared by the Wildlife Division and distributed to license holders to facilitate the data and sample collection process. Information gained from these sample collections has improved knowledge of polar bear winter range and body condition. Tattoo records compiled as part of population surveys and harvested bears have improved understanding of survival and distribution of the Davis Strait population. DNA samples collected have been processed and are contributing to ongoing studies on gene flow and survival rates. A catalog of polar bear fat samples has been assembled for upcoming analysis on contaminants. Skulls that are processed by the Wildlife Division are returned to hunters as a keepsake, and the teeth pulled from these skulls are used to inform the age distribution of the harvest. All this information is annually prepared in a Polar Bear bulletin and shared with beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims agreement and Nunatsiavut Government staff. These collaborative efforts inform research professionals, managers, harvesters and interested members of the public on the ecology and health of Davis Strait polar bears, as well as the harvesting practices of Nunatsiavut beneficiaries.