Polar bear status, distribution & population

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Polar Bear population status as of 2013.
© Polar Bear Technical Committee, 2013 Range Boundaries IUCN, 2012.

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Current bear populations

20-25,000
polar bears worldwide

~19
distinct sub-populations (see above map)

60-80%
of polar bears are in Canada

Status by country

  • International: Vulnerable
  • Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern
  • Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
  • Norway: Vulnerable
  • Russia: Uncertain, Rare, and Rehabilitated/Rehabilitating
  • United States: Threatened


Timeline of polar bear conservation

Before 1973

  • Several polar bear populations were decimated by unsustainable hunting by European, Russian and American hunters and trappers from the 1600s right through to the mid-1970's.

1973

2005

  • The polar bear was upgraded from Least Concern to Vulnerable by the the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, based on the likelihood of a decline in the total global polar bear population of more than 30% within the next 35 to 50 years.

2013

  • Ministers and other leaders from the five polar bear range states met in Moscow for the first International Forum on Polar Bear conservation. The leaders made significant commitments to address issues of polar bear habitat, research and trade. This event was supported by WWF.

Today

  • Today, polar bears are among the few large carnivores that are still found in roughly their original habitat and range--and in some places, in roughly their natural numbers.
  • Although most populations have returned to healthy numbers, there are differences between the populations. Some are stable, some seem to be increasing, and some are decreasing due to various pressures. As of 2013, 5 of 19 populations were in decline.
  • Some populations are still harvested quite heavily, and their status is uncertain.

In the future

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