The Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act
Manitoba’s Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act prohibits killing, injuring or possessing listed species (except under the authority of a permit issued for scientific purposes or for purposes related to the protection or reintroduction of the species); destroying, disturbing or interfering with their habitat; and, damaging, destroying, obstructing or removing any natural resource that the species requires. Manitoba designated the polar bear as a threatened species under The Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act on February 7, 2008. Section 9 of the act also permits the development of regulations to protect the habitat of a listed species or prohibit or restrict entry by people into specified areas of significance for the survival of a listed species.
The Wildlife Act
Polar bears have historically always had some form of protection in Manitoba since they are wildlife within the meaning of The Wildlife Act, that is, “wild by nature in Manitoba.” Hunting and killing of polar bears was first prohibited in 1949 when hunting was limited to bona fide residents of the Hudson Bay coastal area. In 1963, the polar bear was listed as Big Game under Division 1 of the Wildlife Act. This listing occurred primarily to be consistent with other large mammals that have usually been viewed as being a Big Game species. Manitoba has never had a hunting or trapping season for polar bears despite this classification.
In 1991, the status of the species was changed from Big Game to a Protected Species under Division 6 of the Wildlife Act. This change in status did not confer any additional protection, but was intended to convey this was not a hunted species in Manitoba. The change was also consistent with the interprovincial, national and international status of the species. Under Section 20 of the act, it is illegal to take, kill, or capture any species designated as protected, or to possess the animal or any part thereof.
The Polar Bear Protection Act
The Polar Bear Protection Act and Regulations allow orphaned cubs or older bears that cannot be released back to the wild, to be transferred under a perpetual loan agreement from Manitoba to zoos that meet or exceed the facility and husbandry standards established in The Act and Regulations.
The Act and Regulations do not allow polar bears to be captured specifically for placement in a zoo. They provide an alternative to euthanasia. Placing these animals, that would have died or been euthanized, in well-managed zoos that meet or exceed Manitoba’s criteria contributes to public awareness about the impacts of climate change to polar bear survival in a warmer world. With effective educational messaging, they can play a critical role in raising awareness of the effects of global climate change on arctic and subarctic ecosystems.
Canada National Parks Act
Polar bears and a large portion of their denning habitat is protected within Wapusk National Park. The Canada National Parks Act allows for the designation of national parks in Canada and regulates protection of natural areas of Canadian significance. The purpose of their protection is for the benefit of public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment, while being maintained in unimpaired states for future generations.
Under the Act, Parks Canada has the responsibility to protect and manage these areas for visitors to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the importance of these natural areas in ways that maintain or restore their ecological integrity.