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Polar bear outfitters looking overseas

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009

NWT - A year after the U.S. import ban on polar bears came into effect, NWT outfitters are scoping out new overseas customers in preparation for the upcoming hunting season.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Paulatuk outfitter Tony Green says he believes the population of polar bears around Cape Parry has remained stable. - NNSL file photo

While American sport hunters had accounted for the majority of his clients for the past two decades before the ban was implemented last spring, veteran Paulatuk outfitter Tony Green says the market for polar bear hunters in European countries "sounds promising." So far he's picked up one new client for next year, after hunting season begins in October.

In December, the European Union banned polar bear imports from the Kane Basin and Baffin Bay areas in Nunavut, but so far hasn't made it illegal for hunters to bring back trophy bears from NWT.

Green, who's been in the outfitting business for 40 years around Cape Parry, said he's heard about some Americans still coming up to hunt in other areas of the North and storing their bears in Canada, in hopes of the U.S. reversing its ban.

"There's not that many of them, but there's a few," Green said. "We're open. I mean, if they decide to come, well, that's their money."

He said he believes the polar bear hunting industry is still viable. He's currently teaching his grandchildren how to become guides so they, too, can make a living as outfitters.

"There's quite a few polar bears around the area. It never changed to me since I started in the mid-60s," he said. "It has been pretty much steady in our area."

Though there's heavy debate about polar bear counts and he's aware of declines in other areas, Green said he's recently seen several mothers roaming with their cubs – a good sign.

"To tell you the truth, for the last quite a few years now the quota's never been full. So I presume the polar bears are increasing in our area," he said.

Outfitters now have to be more creative, not only in attracting new clients, but in their hunting techniques, he added.

"Nowadays the ice conditions are not like 30, 40 years ago. What we're running into out there is a lot of open water year-round now," said Green, adding the last time he remembered the ice being completely solid was in 1984. "We're still getting bears right along the shoreline, around the islands… so they're out there.

"It's a matter of having a lot of patience."