Scientists Turn To Greenland Hunters To Learn More About Polar Bears And Climate Change

Source: Hakai Magazine/Cheryl Katz 

Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques/Wikimedia Commons

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The polar bear hunter sits at his kitchen table in Tasiilaq, East Greenland. Jagged white peaks tower behind the small wooden house as he describes the bad storms he’s seen more and more often over a decade traversing the region by dogsled. “They only had piteraq in the old days, but now they also have naqqajaq,” he says.

He and his fellow Inuit subsistence hunters are used to piteraq: cold winds roaring down the glaciers. But naqqajaq—warmer, wetter storms blowing in from the northeast—are new, and both are on the rise—a sign of the climatic changes that are making it increasingly hard for them to hunt.

“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.

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Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques/Wikimedia Commons

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