There’s good news for those who took a Canadian polar bear prior to 2008. The U.S. Senate has made an important addition to S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage & Environmental Legacy Preservation or “HELP for Wildlife” Act, which allows hunters who took a bear prior to that year to import their trophies.
The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee approved the measure in a vote of 14-7 Wednesday, adding language to the bill that would allow the importation of trophies taken before the bears were added to the Endangered Species List as a threatened species. The change was initiated by Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, allowing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to authorize permits for the importations. The bears must have been legally taken by hunters from approved Canadian populations, but barring that the trophies can now legally enter the U.S.
According to Safari Club International, 41 bear trophies will be affected by the decision.
Other functions of the bill include a directive for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist certain gray wolf populations and support for the construction of shooting ranges on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands.
Canada is home to some 60 percent of the world’s polar bears, so most U.S. hunters willing and able to hunt the bruins end up doing so there. Because of the remote and inhospitable environment that polar bears inhabit, biologists don’t have an exact population estimate, though. The scientific community typically uses a figure of 20,000-25,000, but there may be as many as 31,000 bears across the Arctic. No official trend as to whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing has ever been established.