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NNSL Photo/graphic

A Nunavut wildlife official says a fed bear is a dead bear. - NNSL file photo

Don't feed the bears, wildlife officer warns

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 18/06) - Some Clyde River hunters may want to feed underweight polar bears in their area, but officials with Nunavut's Environment Department insists that it's not a good idea.

It's also against the law, said Steve Pinksen, director of policy, planning and legislation for the department.

Hunters in some Baffin communities, including Clyde River, have reported seeing underweight bears this season. Pinksen said feeding them, even if they are skinny, amounts to interfering with natural ecosystems.

"Those systems are natural systems that do their own thing," he said. "When humans step into them and start messing about, you've got unknown impacts."

It's especially serious with carnivores, Pinksen said, because they begin to associate people with food and begin wandering too close to human settlements. Then they commonly end up getting shot.

"Fed wildlife is dead wildlife," Pinksen said.

He said if hunters and trappers associations have proposals to deal with starving wildlife, they should approach the government first.

The issue arose after Nunavut News/North incorrectly reported the Namautaq Hunters and Trappers Association in Clyde River was planning on feeding the skinny bears. Namautaq chair James Qilliq said the HTA voted to pursue government funding to feed bears, not to actually do it.

The HTA hasn't heard back from the government yet, Qilliq said through translation by Gloria Putumiraqtuq.

Harry Alookie, manager of the Nattivak HTA in Qikiqtarjuaq, says hunters there have also spotted underweight bears. He supports the idea of feeding the animals.

"It's a good idea to keep the bears out of the community," he said. "But yet again there are more polar bears passing through this way, but it's not much of a problem now that the (sea) ice has formed."