Polar bear status, distribution & population
The status of polar bear populations has been assessed at both national and international level, and 7 of 19 of the World's polar bear sub-populations are found to be declining in number, with trends in two linked to reductions in sea ice.
Biodiversity - Status and Trends of Polar Bears (2011)
Current bear populations
polar bears worldwide
distinct sub-populations (see above map)
of polar bears are in Canada
Status by country
- International: Vulnerable
- Canada (COSEWIC): Species of Special Concern
- Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
- Norway: Vulnerable
- Russia: Uncertain, Rare, and Rehabilitated/Rehabilitating
- United States: Threatened
Timeline of polar bear conservation
- 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.
- Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and the former USSR signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat, strictly regulating commercial hunting.
- The US Government classified the Polar Bear under its Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- 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.
- 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. A 2011 study found that 7 of 19 populations were declining.
- Some populations are still harvested quite heavily, and their status is uncertain.
In the future
- If current warming trends continue unabated, scientists believe that polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century.
- By 2040, scientists predict that only a fringe of ice will remain in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland when all other large areas of summer ice are gone.