Polar Bear Management in Manitoba
Manitoba’s polar bears are part of the Western Hudson Bay sub-population that is shared between Manitoba, Nunavut and Ontario. These bears live on the ice and hunt seals through the winter and into the summer. When the ice melts, they move ashore and survive on stored fat until the following winter when they can hunt seals on the ice. Pregnant females will remain on land in a maternity den to give birth. Cubs are nursed and kept in the den for several months until emergence in early February to late March when the family group moves out onto the ice to hunt seals.
Churchill Wildlife Management Area
The Churchill Wildlife Management Area conserves a significant tract of unique wildlife habitat that includes denning habitat for polar bears of the Western Hudson Bay sub-population. The WMA continues to be a significant site for scientific research out of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre by federal and provincial governments, nongovernmental organizations, universities and academics.
The history, resource base, purpose, objectives and management initiatives of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area are described in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area plan. Management objectives for Churchill WMA include sustaining wildlife populations within natural limits and enhancing opportunities for use by Manitobans. Environmental protection and aesthetics are also of paramount importance. Management within the Churchill WMA takes into consideration the regional context including the interests of Indigenous communities and other stakeholders interested in management of the area.
Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area
The Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area is home to a variety of wildlife including wolves, caribou, moose, black bears, wolverine, marten, fisher, arctic foxes, ducks, geese and ptarmigan. The area is particularly important to polar bears, both for staging during the ice-free period and for providing critical inland denning habitat. Management objectives for the remainder of the WMA are similar to those for the Churchill WMA: protection of the environment, sustainability of wildlife populations and provision of recreational opportunities in a manner compatible with the first two objectives.
Wapusk National Park
Established in 1996, Wapusk National Park is home to one of the largest known polar bear maternity denning areas in the world. The park can also claim an unparalleled number of plants and animal species living in the transition zone between subarctic taiga and arctic tundra. The history, resource base, role and management objectives of Wapusk National Park are described in the management plan completed in 2017.
Park management is aimed at maintaining the biological and cultural resources of the park in as natural a state as possible. The Wapusk Management Board guides the process of implementing and honouring the Park Establishment Agreement and the park management plan, and facilitates co-operation with communities. Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development is represented on the management board. Both traditional knowledge and scientific research are used in decision-making.
Manitoba’s Polar Bear Conservation and Recovery Strategy
Currently under development, the goal of Manitoba’s Polar Bear Conservation and Recovery Strategy is to maintain the long-term viability of the threatened Western Hudson Bay polar bear sub-population through management initiatives within Manitoba, as required under the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act. The strategy will describe key findings related to polar bear behaviour, sub-population numbers, migration, and threats to their survival. The strategy will also fulfil Manitoba’s commitments under the national Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada, the National Framework for the Conservation of Species at Risk and the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).
The six key objectives of the strategy are to:
- Identify and protect important polar bear habitat in Manitoba.
- Determine and monitor seasonal habitat use, population structure, distribution, and body condition of polar bears along the Manitoba coast.
- Mitigate where possible, threats to polar bears in Manitoba and minimize incidental mortality.
- Promote education and outreach programs, information sharing and an enhanced understanding of the polar bears of Western Hudson Bay and the impacts of climate change to the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
- Promote research to fill knowledge gaps that will aid in the management and protection of polar bears and their habitat in Manitoba.
- Continue and strengthen provincial, national and international co-operation on research and management of Western Hudson Bay polar bears.
Initiatives for the conservation and recovery of polar bears in Manitoba have been identified under each of the key objectives.