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Polar bear patrols keep bears and Arctic communities safe

Feb 22, 2016

TORONTO, Canada - At the close of another polar bear season for northern communities, WWF is pleased to announce that the collaborative polar bear patrol model is successfully reducing the number of conflicts between people and polar bears.

Since introducing the program in 2010, WWF and the Hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut, have dramatically reduced the number of polar bears killed under Defence of Life and Property (DLP) regulations. In this region we have successfully reduced the number of polar bears destroyed from an average of eight per year before 2010 to an average of one per year since, despite an increasing frequency of encounters between people and polar bears.

Polar bear patrols have also advanced in Russia and Greenland. WWF provides funding to help communities reduce instances of conflict between polar bears and communities, including hiring guards to patrol communities and scare away bears.

The news comes days before International Polar Bear Day, on Feb. 27, 2016. To celebrate, WWF is releasing a video that documents the increasing challenges that communities face from polar bears, and the successful methods that keep both bears and people safer.

Quote from David Miller, WWF-Canada president and CEO:

"With steadily decreasing sea ice coverage due to climate change, polar bears in the Western Hudson Bay population are spending more time on shore in summer and away from their primary food source: seals caught from the sea ice. While waiting for the ice to freeze, some scavenge food along the coast, and are attracted to communities. WWF is pleased to see that our ongoing partnership with the Hamlet of Arviat is continuing to pay off for both community members and the polar bears. We are now working to share these successes with other northern communities to expand the program."

Polar bear deterrents

• Daily patrols in peak bear season (September – December), particularly at night, significantly reduce conflicts. Patrol teams have a range of tools including cracker shells, rubber bullets, beanbags, flares and live rounds.

• Community hotlines allow residents to phone and notify patrols as soon as a bear is spotted.

• To catch very persistent bears and transport them away from communities, live traps are baited with seal meat.

Facts on WWF's polar bear conflict work

• Arctic sea ice is decreasing at an average rate of 13.5 percent per decade due to climate change.

• Throughout their range, there are increasing encounters between polar bears and people. This brings major risks to human life and property, and has led to increased numbers of bears being destroyed.

• In recent years, more than 20 attacks on humans have been reported in the polar bear's range.

• This year (September — December, 2015) the community of Arviat experienced 190 encounters with polar bears with two DLP kills of bears threatening human life.

• During the same time period, communities with a WWF-supported polar bear patrol initiative in place in the districts of Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets and Chukotsky, Russia had zero DLP kills.

To reduce ongoing human/polar bear conflicts, WWF-Canada is:

• Expanding the successful Arviat model to new communities in the Canadian Arctic, and sharing experiences with northern communities in other parts of the polar bear's range by hosting a front-line operators' workshop on Hudson Bay in March of 2016;

• Field-testing of different management and deterrence techniques, including waste management and devices that release loud noises to scare bears away.

Polar bear patrols keep bears and Arctic communities safe

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