Veteran polar-bear biologist Mitchell Taylor says he has been ostracized by former colleagues for his views that global warming isn’t man-made, and therefore it is hard to predict what will happen to the climate or polar bears in the future.
“For the sake of polar bear conservation,” Mr. Taylor’s views “are extremely unhelpful,” fellow polar-bear biologist Andrew Derocher, wrote in an email this summer explaining why most of Mr. Taylor’s colleagues wouldn’t welcome him at an international meeting.
Mr. Taylor, in turn, has accused Mr. Derocher and others of twisting facts to make polar bears seem more endangered than they are. “That’s what we lost in this whole debate — perspective,” says Mr. Taylor.
Nearly everyone agrees that there are more polar bears now than when scientists first started counting: Estimates put the population between 20,000 and 25,000, up from several thousand 50 years ago. In Canada, where two-thirds of the world’s bears live, most populations have grown during the past two or three decades. Arctic residents say they are now bumping into bears wherever they turn.
“A month ago I was down by my [hunting] camp and I saw five polar bears,” says Harry Flaherty, chairman of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, who lives in Iqaluit. “They were so fat, they could barely move.”
Mr. Flaherty and others argue that polar bears in general are doing just fine — indeed, their numbers could use some thinning. Last year, his board recommended that Inuit in the Baffin Bay region continue to be allowed a hunting quota of about 105 bears a year.