Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

They can bear-ly believe it: Officials surprised by den discovery

  • Print

Manitoba Conservation officials have stumbled across a pleasant surprise -- a large number of polar bear dens along the Hudson Bay coast near the Ontario boundary.

The dens lie in an area southeast of Wapusk National Park and east of the Nelson River. It's a region along the southern end of the polar bear's range and not as well-known as Wapusk, Churchill and other areas to the north.

"We've always known that there are dens in there... but not to this extent," said Daryll Hedman, the regional wildlife manager for northeast Manitoba.

"We have a fairly large number of denning females in there, equal to or even maybe surpassing Wapusk National Park, so it's fairly exciting news."

Female polar bears dig the dens in the ground to give birth. The discovery could be a sign the polar bear population in the area is in good shape, at least for now. The province is beginning a three-year study to get more detail.

" 'For now' might be a fair statement, but that ice-free period is getting longer each year," said Hedman.

The area's polar bears are threatened by a shrinking feeding season. The amount of time every year that ice covers that stretch of Hudson Bay, allowing the bears to hunt seals, has been reduced by three weeks. That makes it tougher for female bears to gain enough weight to give birth.

Climate change also affects the permafrost the bears use for their dens. Dens do not collapse under permanently frozen ground, but scientists are worried warming temperatures will cause the permafrost to recede northward.

Not everyone agrees polar bears are in trouble. The Nunavut government released a survey earlier this year that said Canada's polar bear population hasn't significantly declined in the last seven years as predicted.

The aerial survey estimated the western Hudson Bay bear population at around 1,000.

That's about the same number of bears found in a more detailed study done in 2004. That study, which physically tagged the bears, predicted the number would decline to about 650 by 2011.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2012 A2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Huge vigil held in support of Tina Fontaine, Faron Hall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local-(Standup photo)- A wood duck swims through the water with fall refections in Kildonan Park Thursday afternoon.
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google