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International Polar Bear Day: Exploring the polar bear capital of the world

February 22, 2024, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

February 27 is International Polar Bear Day, a day to celebrate an icon of Canada’s wildlife heritage, but also to bring attention to the importance of polar bear conservation.

Did you know Canada is home to approximately 16,000 of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the global polar regions? In fact, Churchill, Manitoba, is known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” due to the many polar bears that move towards the shore from inland, through the Churchill region every year in the fall.

Churchill, Manitoba: The polar bear capital of the world

The town of Churchill is located in Northern Manitoba on the west shore of Hudson Bay, stretching across 50.83 square kilometres of land.

Churchill was home to 870 people in 2021, down from 899 in 2016. More than half (495 people) of Churchill’s population reported an Indigenous identity during the 2021 Census of Population, including 345 First Nations people, 80 Métis and 25 Inuit. 

For Inuit and many northern communities, polar bears are especially significant culturally, spiritually and economically. Unfortunately, polar bear populations are threatened by climate change, which alters conditions in the icy Arctic seas and northern regions that polar bears inhabit, such as Churchill. Therefore, given that the species is significant for certain Canadian communities and that Canada has more than half of the world’s polar bears, the country has an important responsibility to help protect them.  

Protecting polar bears and taking action against climate change

Around this time every year, polar bear moms keep their newborn cubs safe by snuggling together in snow dens across the Arctic. Polar bears face challenges year round due to global warming, but they are especially vulnerable during the denning period.

In Canada, polar bears are protected through a collaborative approach that is shared with provinces, territories and regional wildlife management boards. This approach allows activities, investments and expertise to be coordinated across the country and ensures that each organization is meeting its responsibilities to conserve the species.

Despite Canada’s ongoing efforts to conserve and protect the species, climate change continues to pose a threat to the polar bear’s survival. Human activity is the main cause of climate change; people burn fossil fuels and convert land from forests to agriculture.

Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas and petroleum, produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG). It is called a GHG because it produces a "greenhouse effect," making the earth warmer, just as a greenhouse is warmer than its surroundings.

GHG emissions data are accessible on the Canadian Centre for Energy Information (CCEI), a convenient one-stop virtual shop for information on energy in Canada with a collection of indicators and data visualization tools, allowing users to visualize key statistics.

The CCEI’s Energy and the environment webpage presents data from both Statistics Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), including GHG emissions data from ECCC's National Inventory Report: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, Canada’s official greenhouse gas inventory and Statistics Canada's Physical Flow Accounts.

The Climate Change Statistics page highlights key indicators from Statistics Canada surveys as well as other resources to contribute to a better understanding of climate change implications on Canadian industries, households and the environment.

All year round, we must continue to conserve our precious environment to help protect polar bears, among others, and their habitats from the effects of global warming.

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