We checked in this month with the major Arctic operators to get a sense of how things are shaking out up north. Suffice it to say, their tone was somber at best. People throughout the Canadian north who depend on polar bear hunters for their livelihoods are clearly upset about, and disappointed with, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the global-warming bandwagon they jumped on to list the polar bear as threatened. However, no one we spoke to is throwing in the towel. Pat Fredrick of Ameri-cana Expeditions, Fred Webb of Webb Outfitting and Jerome Knap of Canada North Outfitting all say they are going to hang in there, relying on the non-US market to take up some of the slack. Also, they point out that some Americans were venturing into the Arctic in the 1990s, before the bear was importable into the US, and some will surely continue to do so now. We're talking, of course, about hunters who are satisfied merely to have ventured into perhaps the harshest environment in the world after a magnificent and deadly quarry. These hunters are willing to bring home photographs documenting their achievement and leave their trophies behind.
To be sure, there are not a lot of sportsmen who are going to be willing to hunt a bear and not bring their trophy home with hunt prices hovering around $35,000 to $40,000. A drop in overall hunter numbers is inevitable. Webb says he was booking about a dozen polar bear hunters a year, with an all-time high of 15 hunters going in 2007. Only three wanted to go in 2008, due to the uncertainty of what US Fish & Wildlife would do. He has no hunters booked for 2009, although........(continued)