Not as dramatic an announcement as some environmentally conscious persons might have wished, but certainly heartening news for all those who continue to warn of the link between the increasing impacts of climate change and human-caused disturbances to the potential detriment (and survival) of Arctic species. Mid-December 2012, the Northwest Territories (NWT) Species At Risk Committee announced several determinations related to NWT caribou and polar bears.
Two caribou species were assessed as “Threatened” by the committee. The smallest of all caribou, existing only in Canada’s Arctic Islands, Peary Caribou have diminished to a mere 7,250 animals (estimated) following a steady 20-year decline, making them all the more susceptible to the ravages of climate change and over-harvesting.
Boreal caribou, numbering 6,500 or so in the NWT were also identified as a “threatened species” as natural habitat continues to shrink due to growing human intrusions that now include the expansion of oil, gas and mining exploration activities in the NWT and newly emerging forestry uses.
Polar bears were named a “Special Concern” by the committee as melting ice continues to wave its two-edged sword at the species: diminishing sea ice therefore declining availability of their dietary mainstay, seals.
Polar bear numbers in the NWT are considered stable at the moment (in the range of 2,000) and current harvest practices seem to be well enough managed to sustain that number.