Humberto Fontova

There's roughly twice as many polar bears in the world today as thirty years ago. But on May 14th U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, invoking the U.S. Endangered Species Act, proclaimed polar bears as a “threatened species.” In 1972 the creatures had already lost value in the U.S. when the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibited their hunting in Alaska. (And no, it's not the hunting ban that caused their increased numbers; they proliferated equally in Canada which continued the polar bear season.)

After 1972 U.S. hunters started hunting polar bears in Canada. But Kempthorne's recent proclamation means that U.S. hunters will be barred by law from bringing their trophy bear skins into the U.S. So again Polar Bears have lost value.

Lately hunters (primarily from the U.S.) have been paying $30,000 for the chance of whacking a polar bear during a grueling hunt in the Canadian arctic on dog-sleds and in sub-zero weather. If successful, then the hunter's taxidermist landed another $5,000 or so for converting the beast's epidermis into an infuriatingly politically-incorrect rug for the hunter to display to his politically-correct guests at dinner parties. Generally speaking, the most spirited reactions from guests came after uncorking the eight bottle of wine.

Most of these guests were usually his wife's friends from the local Art Council and Kayak Club and spittle sometimes landed on his valuable rug of thick white fur, but without lasting damage. The often lipstick-smeared sprayings quickly evaporated and whatever effort was involved in wiping them up was well worth the spectacle of pulsating veins on pretty crimson-hued foreheads with earrings jangling below from the bobbing motions, along with the slender, perfumed (but always white-knuckled) fists constantly thrust to within millimeters of his nose.

“Ah, but they look so sexy that way!” the hunter would always remark to his glowering wife as she frantically motioned the guests into another room. “Like a woman in a Tango!” the smirking hunter persisted. “In the words of legendary poet, Jorge Luis Borges: “The tango shows that a fight may be a celebration! "

Alas, the hunter's philosophical reflections were always lost on his guests-- not to mention his wife.

At any rate, most of the $30,000 spent by the hunter for his foolproof conversation piece went to Canada's Inuit (Eskimo) communities whose members had served as his guide, cooks, outfitters, etc, during the hunt. The Eskimos also got the polar bear meat, which has been a historic staple in their diet.

"It's Inuit food,” says Canadian Inuit Jayko Alooloo in an interview with Canada's CTV, “like cows for you southern people.''

Alooloo also regards the newly-designated status of polar bears as “endangered” as a complete crock.

“They're actually increasing every year.” he says. But what does he know? He only lives amongst them? Whereas, from his Washington D.C. Office, U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne relied on computer weather model to predict that in 50 years, due to Global Warming's effect on arctic ice fields, polar bears will decrease in numbers. My own weatherman's computer model's rarely get it right for the next four days. Kempthorne's nails it for the next fifty years!

Recreational hunters (again, overwhelmingly from the U.S) pumped $3 million a year into Eskimo communities for polar bear hunts. These Inuit communities get a quota of bear tags (licenses) from the Canadian government to use as they see fit. They can hunt the bears themselves for the meat, and for the roughly $1000 per hide if they sell it. Or they can sell the tag to a recreational hunter for $30,000 –serve as his guide, (i.e. experience most of their culture's traditional and integral parts of the hunt) and still keep the meat. Only a Federal bureaucrat would miss the implications here.

In fact, these hunts being such an integral part of their culture, a few Inuits elect to retain the tags for themselves to do the killing. The new ruling means that now they'll probably keep all. A recreational hunt lasts a few days and—like all hunting--does not always climax with kill. But the tag is considered used once it's sold to a recreational hunter, kill or no kill. On the other hand, Inuit hunters always kill a bear because they have months to fill that tag. So now that U.S. Recreational hunters are barred by U.S. Federal law from bringing home their conversation-piece rug, the Inuits have no choice but to keep their tags, assuring that more Polar Bears bears will be killed.


Humberto Fontova

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.