This article discusses how Greenland sought to understand how climate change would impact the polar bear population. To understand how climate change is affecting Greenland’s polar bears, scientists turn to the hunters who know them best.
“The weather is not getting cold anymore and the ice is not coming,” says another hunter. Around this 3,000-person village overlooking the Denmark Strait, the sea ice is receding, glaciers are shrinking, and climbing temperatures are leading ice-dwelling bears ever more frequently into town, he says. The thinning ice is so unsafe, says a third, that he no longer uses a dogsled and now hunts by boat.
The men are among 25 Inuit hunters interviewed for a recent study gathering traditional knowledge on polar bear ecology in East Greenland. Scientists have scant information on this distinct group of polar bears, one of 19 subpopulations that inhabit the Arctic. Known as the East Greenland polar bear subpopulation, the group has one of the largest geographic ranges of polar bears, spanning the vast length of Greenland’s east coast.