Lobbying for polar bear hunting

New protections for bruins threaten furry rugs.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published June 24, 2008 1:07PM (EDT)

In May, after many months of stalling by the Bush administration, polar bears finally won some protections under the Endangered Species Act. More than a month later, there's still lobbying going on in Washington about polar bear hunting.

It's illegal to hunt polar bears in the United States, unless you're an Inuit who does so for subsistence, but Canada permits hunting of some of the bears just for fun. Yet, now that the polar bear is listed as a "threatened" species in the United States, American sports hunters -- who travel to Canada to shoot the bears -- are no longer allowed to import the animals' heads or hides. This change doesn't make some politicians from Canada's Northwest Territories very happy, according to the Associated Press.

This week, Bob McLeod, the Northwest Territories' minister for energy, industry and tourism, and a posse of Canadian officials are in Washington lobbying the Department of the Interior to allow American sports hunters to bring the dead bear parts back into the United States. McLeod told the Associated Press that polar bear hunting, mostly by Americans, brings about $1.6 million annually to Canada, with much of it going to isolated Inuit communities. The new Endangered Species Act protections for the bears "will effectively wipe out our sports hunting industry," he said. Apparently, the thrill of hunting and killing a polar bear loses its zing if you can't bring home a trophy to prove that you did so.

Before the Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species, Safari Club International, a U.S.-based hunting group, lobbied against the listing, as did a major Canadian Inuit group. There's no word yet on whether the Department of the Interior will cave and create an exception to allow American sports hunters to bring home their polar bear spoils from up north.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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