polar bears worldwide (estimated)
Source: IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialists Group
distinct sub-populations (see above map)
of polar bears are in Canada
Status by country
- International: Vulnerable
- Canada: Special Concern
- Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
- Norway: Vulnerable
- Russia: Indeterminate, Rare, or Recovering, depending on population
- 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.
- 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, 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 of the world's 19 populations have returned to healthy numbers, there are differences between them. Some are stable, some seem to be increasing, and some are decreasing due to various pressures.
Status of the polar bear populations in 2014
- 3 populations were in decline
- 1 population was increasing
- 6 populations were stable
- 9 populations were data-deficient (information missing or outdated)
- Some populations are still harvested quite heavily, and their status is uncertain.
In the future
- 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. This "Last Ice Area" is likely to become important for polar bears and other life that depends on ice.
- According to a 2015 study, polar bears are already beginning to move towards the Last Ice Area in response to reduced ice in the southern part of Canada's Arctic archipelago.
- A projection of sea ice in the archipelago, supported by WWF, shows that much of the region is facing significant ice loss in the coming decades - with potentially serious consequences for polar bears.