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Bag a Polar Bear for $35,000: the New Threat to the Species
"It was one of those beautiful Arctic days," recalled Mr Warner. "We'd had about 14 hrs of sunlight and were completely surrounded by nature. "The moment of death comes QUICKLY for the bear"... USUALLY with a shot to the heart just behind the bear's fore leg. "You might track one for days through the ice but a single shot to the heart kills IT instantly."
For WEALTHY modern-day TROPHY hunters, 'bagging' a polar bear is the ultimate kill.
14 days in harsh conditions, requiring dog-sleds, Inuit guides & a heated tent camp, does not come cheap: the minimum bill comes to $35,000 (£24,000).
Mr Warner is the man who helps them do it. Earlier this week, the 45-year-old Canadian, whose company Adventure Northwest is based in Yellowknife, sent this season's 1st group of hunters north to Pond Inlet, where they will track & kill up to 6 bears. "This is probably the toughest hunt you can ever do," he said. "The weather conditions are appalling & it takes a huge amount of patience. You're living in the Arctic where it can drop to -50C at night & everything is done with sled dogs. It's incredibly gruelling."
"This year we have a lot of Mexicans & Americans but you get hunters from Europe, mainly Norwegians & Poles. They are just GENUINE, ORDINARY folk with a LOT of cash. THEY RESPECT the ANIMALS ENORMOUSLY."
There are few animals more symbolic of the perils of climate change than the polar bear, which faces destruction as the Arctic sea ice melts away – the bears starve or drown because the distances they have to swim to find prey become too vast. Yet, every year scores of wealthy hunters from around the world pay tens of thousands of dollars to travel into the frozen Arctic and bag themselves a coveted polar bear hide.
Canada, home to about 60% of the world's 22,000 polar bears, is the only one of the 5 polar bear "range states" which allows outsiders to hunt them as a TROPHY SPORT. America, Greenland & Russia only allow their native Arctic populations to kill a quota each year whilst Norway has outlawed stalking altogether.
"I don't ENJOY killing animals but I enjoy the hunt," said Mr Warner. "People find that difficult to understand but for me there is no paradox."
The kill quotas – known as "tags" – are also allotted for Canada's Inuit communities, many of whom choose to legally sell them onto outsiders willing to part with enough cash.
"Those 20 bears are going to get killed one way or another because the Inuits depend on them for food during the winter," Mr Warner insisted. "So it shouldn't really matter whether it is the indigenous population that is shooting them or outsiders."
Most hunters are then allowed to take their polar bear hides back to their own country. Last year the US banned the importation of polar bear hides but most countries, including Britain, place no restrictions on the skins. Mr Warner reports that his business has been hit by the US restrictions. "The American ban on importing polar bear skins has definitely hit the Inuit communities hard. You're not going to part with 1000'S of dollars if you can't bring your trophy back."
The latest US-led scientific surveys suggest that up to 2/3 of ALL POLAR BEARS could be LOST by 2050 – bringing the sustainability of hunting into question.
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