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Classroom Resources: Saint Ursus maritimus

By Jim Robbins
October-December 2007 / Vol. 8 No. 4

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Discussion Questions

  • With respect to the decline of polar bears and the proposal to list them as a threatened species, create a table that identifies all of the parties that are involved in the issue, their role in creating the problem, and the consequences they would be asked to suffer if polar bears are listed.  What are your feelings about the patterns that you see in this table?
  • What is meant by the term “conservation hunting”?  Do you think conservation and hunting can be compatible?  Can you think of any other species where hunting is said to be able to make a positive contribution to its conservation (other than the ones named in the article)?
  • What are the pros and cons of generating a conservation initiative around an iconic species like the polar bear?  What other species have been used as conservation icons?
  • People in favor of listing the polar bear would probably agree that hunting is important for the Inuit economy.  People opposed to the listing would probably agree that global warming is a major environmental problem.  Can you think of compromise that would allow both sides to achieve their goals with respect to this issue?  What do you think the barriers would be to implementing this compromise?

Websites for Further Information

  • IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group:
  • The Government of Nunavut:
  • USGS Polar Bear studies:

Polar Bears in the News

  1. Warming is seen as wiping out most polar bears (New York Times, September 8th, 2007):
  2. Russia tries to save polar bears with legal hunt (New York Times, April 16th, 2007):
  3. Agency proposes listing polar bear as threatened (New York Times, December 28th, 2006):

Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to the citations listed in the article)

  • Derocher, A.E., N.J. Lunn, and I. Sterline. 2004. Polar bears in a warming climate. Integrative and Comparative Biology 44(2): 163-176.
  • Derocher, A.E. 2005. Population ecology of polar bears at Svalbard, Norway. Population Ecology 47(3): 267-275.
  • Taylor, M.K., J. Laake, P.D. McLoughlin, H.D. Cluff, and F. Messier. 2006. Demographic parameters and harvest-explicit population viability analysis for polar bears in M’Clintock Channel, Nunavut, Canada. Journal of Wildlife Management 70(6): 1667-1673.

Key Concepts

  • Global warming
  • Polar bears
  • Conservation hunting
  • Endangered species
  • Flagship species
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