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Lemelin R.H.,Lakehead University | Dowsley M.,Lakehead University | Walmark B.,Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute KORI | Siebel F.,Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute KORI | And 6 more authors.
Human Ecology | Year: 2011

In order to understand wabusk (polar bear, Ursus maritimus) behaviours and interactions with people in the Hudson Bay lowlands of northern Ontario we conducted this collaborative study of Cree kiskayndamowin/knowledge. Our findings reveal that Cree knowledge supports previously published information on polar bears, while adding further contextual findings: that male polar bears travel greater distances into the muskeg than previously recorded; that wabusk prey on amisk (beaver, Castor canadensis); that wabusk interact with muskwa (black bears, Ursus americanus); and that human-polar bear interactions occur in this region of northern Canada. Bearing in mind that Cree knowledge has been recognized in wildlife management strategies (i.e., for beaver, caribou and moose) elsewhere in Canada, this particular body of information is timely, especially since polar bears are considered threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, and the province is developing a recovery strategy for the Southern Hudson Bay polar bear population. The federal government is also contemplating listing polar bears in Canada as a "species of special concern" under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). While it is unclear as to how these decisions will impact the Cree-polar interactions, the listing of polar bears by both governments, but especially the provincial government of Ontario, must recognize treaty and Aboriginal rights, acknowledge its duties to consult and properly accommodate Aboriginal people's views, incorporate Cree kiskayndamowin/knowledge of wabusk, and re-examine the proposed Wabusk Co-Management Agreement draft developed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and Coastal Cree First Nations of Northern Ontario in 1994. The article provides recommendations that highlight how the Northern Cree First Nations, through the development of the Recovery Strategy for Polar Bear in Ontario, can become engaged in the management of wabusk in Ontario and throughout Canada. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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