Polar bear maternity dens at risk in Manitoba: CPAWS seeks protection

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With polar bears under increasing pressure from climate change, conservationists are seeking to help mother bears protect their cubs by preserving maternity den sites.

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This article was published 24/01/2022 (308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With polar bears under increasing pressure from climate change, conservationists are seeking to help mother bears protect their cubs by preserving maternity den sites.

Manitoba has lost nearly a third of its polar bears in the past 30 years. We will lose even more as the ice continues to retreat in Hudson Bay.

The Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is working to protect the lands where polar bear mothers raise their cubs.

“We want to make sure that polar bears cubs have the best chance of survival,” said Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba.

“It’s critical to preserve the lands where mother bears dig their dens and await the return of sea ice.

“Polar bears in Western Hudson Bay are the only bears that dig maternity dens in the ground, instead of in snow. Good denning sites are hard to find – some bears travel more than 100 kilometers inland to find a suitable spot – and we can’t risk disturbing them.”

Suitable den sites will often get used again and again, and there are specific areas where they go to dig. It’s critical to conserve the areas where they might select sites.”

CPAWS offers a grassroots voice that focuses on long-term protection of public land, fresh water and the ocean. As a conservation leader, the organization makes a priority of supporting Indigenous leaderships in efforts to conserve land and water for future generations.

CPAWS has played an instrumental role in preserving more than 500,000 square kilometers across Canada since it was founded in 1963.

The Manitoba chapter has helped to establish 22 parks and protected areas since 1991. Its work to protect polar bear habitat is part of a mission to conserve half of Manitoba’s wild spaces.

Thiessen notes that the Manitoba government has proposed a provincial park that would span from the Ontario border all the way up to Churchill.

“That process has stalled, so that’s one of the things we’re trying to encourage them to get moving on,” Thiessen said.

“Very importantly, there are several Indigenous nations in the region that are working to establish large Indigenous protected areas. So, we’re calling on the Manitoba government to reach out and support the nations involved with whatever they need from the province to make that happen.”

Preserving these lands won’t only protect polar bears and other wildlife. It will also help mitigate climate change.

“The Hudson Bay Lowlands region, which this all encompasses, is one of the largest carbon storehouses on the planet. The carbon stores there are globally significant,” Thiessen said.

“In terms of climate change, it’s important to keep carbon in the ground and away from the atmosphere.”

With a solutions-oriented approach, Thiessen encourages others to show their support for the cause to preserve this essential habitat.

“We’re using this initiative to secure large, protected areas in the region — not just for polar bears but for the vast array of wildlife that are there. The area is really high in terms of biodiversity,” he said.

“We have a letter writing campaign to Premier Stefanson, and you’ll find that action on our webpage. We encourage people to send that letter and join us in the quest to protect habitat for      polar bears and their cubs. It only takes a couple minutes to do.”

This letter-writing tool is available on the CPAWS Manitoba website at www.cpawsmb.org. For additional information, contact the charity at 204-949-0782 or info@cpawsmb.org.

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