Interpretations of Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Tracks by Inuit Hunters: Inter-rater Reliability and Inferences Concerning Accuracy

P. B. Y. Wong, P. Van Coeverden de Groot, C. Fekken, H. Smith, M. Pagès, P. T. Boag


Due to their tracking experience in pursuing Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus), Inuit hunters could provide non-invasive estimates of Polar Bear characteristics from tracks, and Polar Bear monitoring programs could benefit from Inuit input. We determined i) inter-rater reliability of estimates of the sex, age, and size of Polar Bears, and estimates of the age of tracks made by a group of nine Inuit hunters who interpreted 78 tracks; ii) we made preliminary comparisons of sex and size estimates with conventional (scientific) estimates; iii) we catalogued the Polar Bear hunting experience and track interpretation techniques of nine Inuit hunters; and iv) we explored relationships between hunting experience and the ability to interpret tracks. The group of Inuit hunters made reliable and consistent estimates of Polar Bear sex, age, and size, as well as estimates of age of track (after data from one participant was excluded). Although our comparisons are based on small samples, our findings suggest that Inuit hunters may be accurate in estimating the sex of Polar Bears (74.42% agreement with genetic determinations) and the size of Polar Bears from their tracks. Our data indicate shared tracking techniques used by hunters may explain high agreement in making specific estimates, while individual hunting experience and particular methods used to interpret tracks may lead to inter-rater reliability and accuracy in interpreting tracks.


Polar Bear; Ursus maritimus; tracking; traditional ecological knowledge; interviews; population characteristics; non-invasive population monitoring; nunavut

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